The Daily Mail reports that GPs are threatening to boycott the new NHS care.data system.
Their concerns are entirely reasonable. Patients have had zero direct communication from the NHS about the program, patient information posters are wholly uninformative and have only been displayed in GP surgeries, rather than being sent to patients. If you don’t visit your GP every few weeks then it’s likely you wouldn’t see the poster before it was too late (and even if you did read the poster, it’s likely you’ll have no idea what it’s talking about.)
Previously we applauded that patients had won the choice of deciding what would happen with their medical records, and that existing opt-outs would be honored. Speaking at the time, the Secretary of State for Health said: ”GPs will not share information with the HSCIC if people object…people will have a veto on that information being shared in the wider system”
For GPs to threaten to boycott the system brings into serious question whether this is still the case. According to the Mail, Dr Jane Lothian, a GP and medical secretary of Northumberland Local Medical Committee (LMC), said patients were not getting ‘an informed choice’.
We wholly agree. The summary care record – which dealt with far less medical data – was preceded by a six month information campaign and every NHS patient recieved a letter detailing what was happening and giving them the right to opt out.
It should not be possible for the entire content of a medical record to be uploaded to a system without patients being able to make a choice, particularly when the system is not involved in the direct primary care of patients.
Of course, it is also the case that under data protection law patients have legal rights and if the NHS does not respect those rights then we will expect the Information Commissioner’s Office to intervene and enforce the law.