Data opt-out for patients in England

THE “national data opt-out” has been launched in England allowing patients to refuse to have their confidential information used for research or planning purposes.

The move is in line with recommendations from National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott’s Review of data security, consent and opt-outs.

Under the new rules, patients can opt out online using their NHS number, or by other means including a printable form and telephone service. Previously, opt-out requests were managed by GPs. Those who do not wish to opt out do not need to take any action.

The new NHS website – nhs.uk/your-nhs-data-matters – has more detailed information about the new tougher rules and includes links to opt out. It explains that the opt-out only applies within the healthcare system in England. Confidential data will still be used to support individual patient care and some anonymised data may still be used in situations such as during an epidemic.

The new system will have a phased introduction before going fully operational in October 2018.

Resources are available for healthcare professionals on the NHS Digital website which offers downloadable patient posters and handouts, an information video. Clinicians can also subscribe to the national opt-out mailing list.