London GPs helping patients opt out of huge NHS database

GPs in London are helping patients to opt out of digital care records, in a move that could present a major threat to the central part of the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT.

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GPs in London are helping patients to opt out of digital care records, in a move that could present a major threat to the central part of the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT.

As the controversial rollout of summary care records continues in London, under England’s £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT, doctors are providing alternative information from that sent officially send to patients by the NHS.

A number of doctors and patients have raised strong objections to the programme.

While the records are intended to provide out-of-hours hospital clinicians with crucial access to patient records, doctors’ body the British Medical Association has heavily criticised the fact patients are automatically opted in, saying people needed to be “treated like adults”.

Patients have also said they are worried about the security of the data, and potential risks of “mission-creep”, where the data is given to other organisations including research firms. There are also concerns that the amonut of data on the record will grow beyond what patients expect.

This week, the Londonwide Local Medical Committees, which represents 6,000 GPs, is sending posters to local GP practices to show patients how to opt out, alongside patient fact sheets and easy opt-out forms. It said it was concerned that patients were only given 12 weeks to respond to an NHS information letter if they wanted to be exempted from the system.

The LMC information advises patients to opt out if they are unsure what to do, because a lack of action over 12 weeks leads to a record being permanently created. It said in a statement that concerns had “been expressed” that the short time frame was “far from ideal”.

“Whatever you may feel about the way this has been implemented by the government, and whatever you may feel about its value to patient care,” the LMC said, “it is our duty as doctors to ensure that our patients are adequately informed about the handling of information we record on their behalf, so that they can make an informed choice.”

The Department of Health did not provide immediate comment.

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