The practice-based publicity campaign around care.data is “not adequate” and wider awareness raising activities will take place before extractions begin, the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee says.
The GPC wrote to Local Medical Committees on Friday saying that it is aware of GP concerns that the publicity materials and time scales around care.data are insufficient to meet their obligations under the Data Protection Act.
It says NHS England will be providing further information about awareness raising activities and that data will not be extracted until these activities have taken place.
The care.data programme will take a monthly dataset from practices covering patient demographics, events, referrals and prescriptions.
A publicity campaign about the new service, run by the Health and Social Care Information Centre and NHS England, began in 1% of practices in June and involved posters and leaflets being distributed in the surgery. All practices in the north of England have now been sent the materials.
Patients have eight weeks from the start of the publicity campaign to opt out of the extractions.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said GPs are concerned that the material provided will not inform all patients about the extraction and therefore not give everyone a chance to opt out.
He told EHI that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 clearly legislated for the extraction of data for the purposes of programmes such as care.data.
However, an agreement was signed between the BMA, the Royal College of GPs, NHS England and the HSCIC earlier this year, which said NHS England would implement a public awareness programme to give patients an opportunity to object.
“In keeping with the agreement reached, the imperative must be that patients are made aware that the data is going to be extracted so they can raise an objection,” said Dr Nagpaul.
“The publicity in waiting rooms that GP practices are expected to provide is clearly not adequate as it will only make a small proportion of patients aware, so there’s a need for a far wider public awareness programme.”
Practices could face a legal challenge from patients if they do not make them aware that their data is being extracted in this way.
Some practices are reportedly looking at ways to boycott the programme. This could include opting all of their patients out of the extractions until they have had more time to make an informed decision.
The GPC sent information to LMCs on Friday saying: “We have received concerns from practices and LMCs about the level of patient awareness and whether an eight week period of activity undertaken by the practice will be sufficient in informing all patients of the extract.
“Some practices have suggested applying the objection code to all of their patients’ records and removing the code once patients have provided explicit consent."
The GPC “strongly advises practices against doing this because the HSCA creates a statutory obligation for GP practices to disclose the data to the HSCIC. In addition, it is a patient’s right to object, not that of the practice.”
The letter says NHS England has been working with the Information Commissioner so that there is clarity about what GPs have to do in order to meet the fair processing component of the DPA.
“Practices should therefore be reassured that they will not be solely responsible for making patients aware of care.data and they will be informed before any extractions take place.”
An NHS England spokesperson told EHI last month that it was working with stakeholders on developing a range of resources to support GP practices to implement care.data.
“It was always the intention to gain feedback from early implementer test practices on both the guidance and patient information developed as part of the first phase and to use that feedback to improve materials and guidance ahead of wider national roll-out."
She said further engagement activity was planned with a number of patient, voluntary and charity groups to support awareness and a regional support programme focussing on local health community activity would also take place.
NHS England’s business plan, released in April, set the target for 75% of GP practices to be providing a full extract to care.data by this month.