As NHS England remains adamant to push through the care.data scheme despite concerns not being properly addressed, it was only a matter of time before GP’s started to publicly speak about. Unsurprisingly this has not gone down well with NHS England.
A GP in Oxford has accused the NHS of using ‘blatantly bullying’ tactics to ‘bulldoze’ doctors and patients into complying with the scheme. The government has made several statements about the fact that GP’s are responsible for their patients’ data, yet it now appears that they are being told that they aren’t able to act when they have genuine concerns.
Dr Gancz has revealed that he received a ‘threatening’ email from Thames Valley NHS England warning him that he would be ‘in breach of his contract’ if he did not automatically opt his patients in to the scheme. He said it also contained the ‘Big Brother-ish’ demand that he remove a statement on his surgery’s website which warned patients that he was ‘concerned’ about the scheme.
Dr Gancz has very clearly and reasonably explained his position that although medical research is important “patients should positively want to release their information”. He is concerned that many of his patients aren’t aware of the scheme and as a result won’t have the opportunity to opt out.
The health watchdog, Healthwatch England, agrees with their chairman, Anna Bradley, describing the scheme as yet another example of where the NHS decides that it knows best whilst ploughing ahead whether GP’s and patients like it or not.
Bradley has reinforced our own concerns that a leaflet drop is a wholly inadequate way of informing patients about significant changes to the way their medical records are used. She said: “the communications around this have been so poor that we are now in the situation where all of us are about to be automatically opted in to a scheme we know little or nothing about.
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.”
Our original concerns remain. If the NHS wants to share patients’ information with increasing amounts of third parties it is arguable that they have a duty to take extra steps to ensure that patients feel as though they have control. The Department for Health must stand by the Governments commitment to give patients more control over their medical records and recognise that this leaflet drop is wholly unacceptable.
The Government must urgently clarify that no GP’s will face criminal or civil action for taking steps to remove their patients from the care.data scheme.
See our ‘take action’ guide on how to opt-out of the care.data system.