NHS data service to mine confidential patient records

NHS ENGLAND has introduced an information service that will extract confidential details from patient records to provide data in support of improved healthcare delivery and commissioning.

Care.data will tap into GP and hospital records on a monthly basis to access personal confidential data such as referrals, all NHS prescriptions and other clinical data. The service will use "identifiers" including DOB, postcode, NHS number and gender in order to link GP data with personal confidential data from hospitals and other care settings. Patient names will not be used.

The legal basis under which care.data will operate is provided under the powers established by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HSCA). The legislation allows the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) under certain circumstances to require personal confidential data (PCD) from GP practices, hospitals and community services without seeking patient consent.

Patients will still have the right to object to any data extraction in advance and specific codes placed on electronic patient records by GPs or other healthcare staff will prevent data leaving the practice or HSCIC.

Leaflets have been developed with the support of the BMA and the RCGP to explain the new service to patients, along with a poster to be displayed in GP practices. Information should also be included on practice websites, in e-bulletins and patient newsletters to raise patient awareness so that the fair processing requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 are met.

NHS England states the data service will "help improve understanding, locally and nationally, of the most important health needs and the quality of the treatment and care provided by local health services. It may also help researchers by supporting studies that identify patterns in diseases, responses to different treatments and potential solutions."

Go to the Care.data web page for more information.

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