Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he will honour patient opt-outs if they do not want their personal, confidential informaton to be shared.
Speaking in response to the Caldicott2 review led by Dame Fiona Caldicott, Hunt said he understood that effective sharing of patient information could only be done if patients are given a say over how their personal information is used.
“I firmly believe that technology can transform the quality of healthcare in this country, but we must always respect the fact that this is very personal information about an individual,” he said.
The review, which looks at the balance between information sharing and confidentiality, makes 26 recommendations.
It recognises that patient’s should be allowed to ‘opt out’ of their information being shared, but says it is important to strike a balance between patient confidentiality and information sharing.
Privacy watchdogs have recently launched a campaign to stop the GP Extraction Service, which will extract datasets from GP practices to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The campaigners believe it is a breach of patient-doctor confidentiality.
Hunt said that NHS England would respect people who did not want their personal records to be extracted via the GPES to the HSCIC.
“The guidance we will be giving to GPs is that if people ask for their records not to be shared, they will not be,” he said and added that if patients did not want their information shared with secondary care clinicians that would also be respected.
“If people ask for their information not to go beyond their GP surgery, GPs will respect that.”
He added that where personal data has already been shared from a GP practice to the information centre, a patient will still be able to have the identifiable information removed.
The BMA, NHS England and the Royal College of GPs will be raising public awareness so that people are informed of the changes and know how they can object to their records being shared.
The more than 500,000 people who already opted out of the Summary Care Records will not have to opt out again as the programme is rolled out, Hunt added.
“We will respect them. We’re not going to cancel the opting out that’s already happened.
There may be a process of contacting people to explain the new arrangements and that detail we’ve worked out, but we will respect the people who have already said they want to opt out.”
Hunt also announced that Dame Fiona will chair an independent panel to oversee and scrutinise implementation of the review’s recommendations and to provide advice on information governance issues. He will respond in full to the review in summer this year.