A primary care trust has dropped its health coaching service from private contractor Bupa Health Dialog, as the row over the consent model for telephone support services continues.

NHS Surrey is one of a handful of primary care trusts in the country that have used the telephone support service offered by Bupa Health Dialog. However, the PCT says it has decided not to continue with the service, the pilot of which is due to end this week.

Marion Heron, associate director of community services and contract management for NHS Surrey, said: “In order for the trial to prove its worth, it needed a minimum of 50,000 people to opt in and take part; unfortunately that number was not reached and so at the end of the trial period there was not enough evidence to show the benefits of the service.

“Health coaching is still being trialled in other parts of the country and NHS Surrey will be monitoring those trials to see if there are any lessons that can be learnt.”

Surrey insisted it had used an “opt -in” consent model for the CareCall scheme, which involved transferring extracts from patient records to the private company.

However Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Hampshire, says a Freedom of Information request shows that pseudonymised data was initially uploaded from GP practices to the PCT on an opt-out basis before patients were offered the chance to opt in and that identifiable data was sent to Bupa Health Dialog.

He told EHI Primary Care: “We don’t know how much psuedonmyised information was sent, but the point is patients should be informed that is happening. There is an increasing trend to try to get data from GP practices and practices have to be extremely careful at the moment.”

NHS Surrey said it had an opt-in model before sending identifiable data to the company because it wanted to ensure patients understood what the service was.

Last summer, Wirral PCT delayed plans to start using a telephone support service from Health Dialog after complaints about plans to use an opt-out model. A spokesperson for the PCT told EHI Primary Care this week that it eventually decided not to go ahead with the service.

NHS Norfolk has been using Health Dialog’s health coaching service since March 2006 under the name of NHS Norfolk Healthline. Last year, it defended use of the opt-out model, which it said was the only way to tackle health inequalities.

At that time, the PCT had plans to expand the service from 20,000 to 50,000 patients – but this week it said it had yet to do so.

Dr John Sampson, chair of the Clinical Executive Committee for NHS Norfolk, said: “NHS Norfolk Healthline project has not expanded at this stage. Statistical robustness of evaluation has taken longer to achieve as we are using a smaller sample and therefore, before we have assessed the project thoroughly we have not invested further at this stage.”

Last month, EHI Primary Care reported that NHS West Kent was also launching a CareCall service with Bupa’s Health Dialog with an opt-out consent model.

Related articles:

Health coaches get access to patient records

Different consent models for coaching services