The interim CEO at NHS Digital has said the organisation needs to ‘face the challenge’ after concerns were raised over the General Practice Data for Research and Planning (GPDPR) service.

Speaking at NHS Confed on June 17, Simon Bolton spoke about the role NHS Digital plays in healthcare and what it was set out to do, adding that the organisation has an “important role in helping to drive a step change in people’s digital experience of the NHS”.

The former CIO at Test and Trace also mentioned GPDPR – a new GP data collection service which aims to give planners and researchers faster access to pseudonymised patient information.

Bolton said it was “right that we have the debate” about the concerns raised around GPDPR as the data involved is “highly sensitive” and “highly personal”.

“We have a responsibility to demonstrate how we are going to keep that data safe,” he added.

The service was originally planned to go live from 1 July 2021. However, after concerns were raised about whether enough time had been given to inform patients about the change, the implementation date was moved from July to September.

At the time, NHS Digital said the extension would ensure that more time is allocated to speak with patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan even further.

Bolton also added that NHS Digital “didn’t describe adequately enough the why” and did not “describe fully enough on what is being done to keep the data safe”.

He said NHS Digital needs to “face the challenge” and be open with the public.

“If you have got a problem you have to be even more open and even more engaged with those concerned,” he said.

It was announced in April 2021 that Bolton would be replacing Sarah Wilkinson as CEO of NHS Digital on an interim basis. Wilkinson announced earlier in the year that she was stepping down as chief executive of NHS Digital after four years in the role.