Controversial NHS data-sharing plan affects hundreds of thousands of patients in the East Riding

Hundreds of thousands of GP patients in the East Riding have just over two months to opt out of a controversial data-sharing system after its launch date was delayed.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 6:00 pm
NHS Digital figures show there were 307,351 patients on GP registers in the NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG area. Photo: PA Images

A new scheme which would allow an NHS system to extract patient data from GP surgeries in England was due to start in July, but has been pushed back to September amid concerns around privacy.

NHS Digital figures show there were 307,351 patients on GP registers in the NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG area as of June 1.

They will now have until August 31 to opt out of sharing their personal information.

The programme, GP Data for Planning and Research, would put the medical histories of 61 million patients across England into a new database.

The launch was delayed to September 1 following complaints from privacy campaigners and doctors that people did not have enough time to understand what was happening.

Simon Bolton, chief executive of NHS Digital, said: “We take our responsibility to safeguard the data we hold incredibly seriously.

“We intend to use the next two months to speak with patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan even further.”

The scheme will collect information on people’s treatments, referrals and appointments over the past 10 years, alongside other data from medical records held on GPs’ systems.

He added that patients can opt out of sharing their data at any time, though it will not be applied retrospectively.

Cori Crider, director of digital privacy group Foxglove, said: “The Government must make sure every single patient in England is meaningfully informed about what is happening to their data.

This data belongs to patients, and they fund the NHS, so it should be their choice.”

The Royal College of GPs also welcomed the delay but said safeguards must be in place to ensure data is not used inappropriately.

NHS Digital figures show the number of patients registered with GPs in England increased from 60.4 million in June 2020 to 60.9 million this month.