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Patient records database ‘should be delayed’

A huge central database called Care.data due to be launched after April will enable experts to assess diseases, examine new drugs on the market and identify infection outbreaks as well as monitor the care patients get. Information is already available about what happens in hospitals, but to date it has been difficult to link those records with the information that was available about what is happening to patients when they are discharged back to the care of their GPs.
Just last month NHS England started a mass mail-out to every household explaining the project and giving people the chance to opt out. However, people were struggling to understand what it was about and there have been cases where GPs have decided to opt out all their patients themselves.
Concerns have been raised about the prospect of keeping all of the information in one place, with campaigners saying that it could lead to privacy problems and data breaches. There is a proposal, to be discussed next month, which could give access to non-NHS bodies, including private firms.
Dawn Monaghan, of the Information Commissioner’s office, also said she had concerns:
“At the moment, we don’t think it is clear enough on the website or in the information that has been sent out exactly what data is going to go and what is not going to go.”
But Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, said patients need not have concerns as the information would not be “identifiable”.

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