A primary care trust is planning to set up a health coaching service giving Bupa health coaches access to patient information unless residents opt-out within a short timeframe.

NHS West Kent is launching the CareCall service with Bupa Health Dialog to give patients access to a registered nurse, known as a health coach, who will provide them with healthcare support and information over the phone.

But E-Health Insider has learned people living in the primary care trust’s area will have some of their GP record information automatically passed to the coaches unless they opt-out.

Residents have received a letter assuming their consent and detailing the benefits and availability of the service. At the bottom it says: “There is an initial opportunity for you to opt out by calling within 15 says of the date of this letter.”

The move comes despite earlier controversy over the CareCall service. NHS Wirral planned to introduce the service last autumn, it ran into a similar row over transferring extracts from patient records to Bupa Health Dialog.

However, NHS Norfolk pushed ahead, arguing that the most deprived sections of the population, who were most likely to need the service, were the least likely to opt-in.

This argument was first used in support of the opt-out from the national Summary Care Record, although it now operates a “consent to view” system when the SCR is needed in a clinical setting.

An NHS West Kent spokesperson said: “The process has been approved by the Local Medical Committee for West Kent and externally validated by our external legal advisers, Capsticks, after close scrutiny of the systems and governance in place.”

In a statement, it also argued: “Evidence shows that taking an opt-out approach enables more people to benefit from the service, particularly those who are from communities that the NHS often finds hard to reach.”

The CareCall service is aimed at helping people with long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. However, the service is also being offered to everybody in the West Kent area in an attempt to reduce unnecessary attendance at GP practices and at A&E departments.

Health coaches will also provide pro-active out-reach with specifically planned health campaigns for target groups at different times. For example, they may contact patients on discharge from hospital, or get in touch with certain patients during the winter when their condition can be more difficult to manage.

Harry Cayton, the new chair of the National Information Governance Board, has expressed concern about data sharing without consent. In a statement, the NIGB said it had not been approached for advice on the West Kent initiative.

“We support steps taken to improve the wellbeing of individuals as long as this is done in line with the care record guarantee and existing policies and procedures, and respects the need for patient consent and confidentiality.”