BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, has warned that patients must be allowed to opt out of a government scheme where anonymous NHS records could be shared with private firms to advance medical research. Otherwise, the Institute believes, the scheme will fail.
The proposed partnership between the NHS and the UK life sciences industry was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday. Under the plans, NHS patient data could be automatically included in clinical research.
Ian Herbert, BCS Health vice-chair, said: "We want to encourage the use of patient data for laudable research purposes, but we must seek to retain public confidence while doing so.
"Except in limited circumstances, patients should be able to opt out of the secondary use of their data for whatever reason, although we know that, if asked, the vast majority of patients are happy for their data if their privacy is properly protected."
The government said that it will hold a consultation on the plans, and insisted that patients will be given a "clear opportunity" to opt out if they want to do so.
In the Autumn Statement last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced a major push to open up data - including medical data - so that new applications can be created from public information.