Privacy fears raised as NHS IT project ploughs ahead

Campaigners warn the new system could infringe patients' privacy
Campaigners warn the new system could infringe patients' privacy

By Ian Dunt

Doctors' organisations and privacy groups have raised concerned about the implications of the new NHS IT system.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that patients lack information about how many of their personal details are put on the database and that it is too hard for them to opt out if they want to.

Following local pilots, patients' summary care records are now going to be uploaded to a central database across England.

For patients to opt out of the system they must inform their GPs or complete a form on the internet or call an 0845 number.

"The summary care record roll-out is now happening too hastily," said Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of the GP IT committee.

Those sentiments were backed up by John May from the BMA's Patient Liaison Group.

"It is important that opting-out is made easier," he said.

"At the moment there's no opt-out form in the patient information packs being sent to patients across the country.

"They either have to take the time out of their day to go and see their GP, or phone a call centre, or download a form from the internet and post it in."

Patients' initial upload would include the last six months of their prescriptions and allergies from the GPs' record. The project has been implemented using a 'consent to view' system, whereby a patient will automatically have a summary care record created unless they choose to opt out.

"The Department [of Health] is manufacturing consent," a spokesman from No2ID told

"What we're talking about is a fundamental shift in the control of health information. It is shifting from the control of medics themselves to the state - the secretary of state."

The Department of Health (DoH) said patients would be given the chance to stop their medical providers seeing the record each time it was accessed.

"We are aware that some patients have concerns about confidentiality and have therefore made it easier for patients to opt out," a spokesperson said.

"Patients are given at least twelve weeks to decide if they want to have a Summary Care Record and are provided with full information about how to opt out if they wish to."

The summary care record is a central part of the new NHS IT project, which has been criticised for going massively over budget.


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