Medical records of thousands of patients are being shared by NHS England as part of a £2bn pilot project, it has emerged.
The move comes amid concerns about patient privacy in the NHS.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says patients can access data for five years, and that the data will be used for quality of care, patient safety, and to deliver new technologies.
The new data is currently only available to patients on a rolling basis, which could change in the future.
But Dr Ian Murray, the DHSC’s chief medical officer, said the move would give patients a “second view” on what has been going on with their health.
The data will also be used to identify trends in care and to help develop new treatments.
NHS England said it was “deeply concerned” about the data sharing.
“The data that is being shared is critical to the delivery of healthcare services in England and to the future success of the NHS and its services,” it said.
“This is the first phase of a trial that will deliver more data and more robust data than we have previously shared with the public.”
Dr Murray said that, if successful, the data would “provide a baseline for the development of new and better technologies and services, as well as a framework for improving patient safety and patient privacy”.
He said that if the data was not shared, it would have to be used “at a later date”.
‘Sharing’ data to the NHS How does NHS England intend to use this data?
Dr Murray told New Scientist that it was designed to be a “first-mover advantage” in helping NHS England improve the quality of its services.
But, he said, “the fact that the NHS is not disclosing this data is not surprising”.
He added: “We know that patients have a right to know what is going on in their care, and we know that when people have a second view they will be more engaged with their care.”
NHS England’s move to share patient data with the DHC comes after the National Audit Office (NAO) released a report earlier this year that warned that patients’ personal data was being used for “political and commercial purposes”.
It warned that NHS England was failing to meet the basic privacy rules, and was “selling their patients’ health information”.
“There is no question that the sharing of patient data in the public interest is the right thing to do,” said Dr Murray.
Patients have a vital role to play in providing NHS services, and their data must be treated with respect.” “
We must also be clear that NHS services need to be as transparent as possible.
Patients have a vital role to play in providing NHS services, and their data must be treated with respect.”
But Dr Murray, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said there was a “huge gap” between the public’s expectations about privacy and what was happening in practice.
He said: “I think that we should be asking, ‘What is this data for?’ and not be doing this in secret.”
There are clear safeguards in place that will ensure that this data isn’t used to harass or discriminate.
“When it comes to personal data that we share with the NHS, there is an obligation to treat it with the same level of dignity as patients’ data,” he added.
How is the data being shared?
NHS England is the UK’s largest NHS provider and provides more than 1,300 GP surgeries, mental health services, diabetes care, asthma care, trauma care, cancer care, primary care, hospice care, occupational health, maternity care and social care.
It has 4,000 doctors and other medical professionals.
How does it keep the data safe?
The data is protected in two ways.
The first is through a “security protocol” set out in the Medical Data Protection Act.
This means that the provider has to “assure the confidentiality and integrity of the data”, according to the DHCC.
It also ensures that “no patient data is accessible or disclosed without the consent of the patient”.
In other words, patients will not be able to access the data unless they give their consent.
The second method of protection is through “an administrative safeguard” which prevents “a person from obtaining, using, storing, disseminating or otherwise using any data in any way whatsoever”, according the DHCT.
This ensures that the information can only be used as needed and will be shared only with NHS England and its staff.
What is the NHS’s role in this?
The DHSC is responsible for managing the data.
It says it is “not a third party” to the information, and “the information and data are not subject to any of the UK or European laws”.
The DHCT says it has an “agreed code of practice” that protects the information.
It is also responsible for ensuring that the DHCO (health care professionals organisation) and the DHHS (health and social services) “take all reasonable steps to ensure that the appropriate safeguards and