French IT services firm Atos has been awarded a multi-million pound contract to extract patient data from GP surgeries as part of the NHS's controversial Care.data scheme.
The company, which has come under fire for its handling of disability reassessments, will replace the service currently provided by the Quality Management and Analysis System (QMAS).
It said the new systems are required to "provide the proposed NHS Commissioning Board with a more flexible service in order to deliver current and emerging outcomes data (and any related payments) for GP practices and Clinical Commissioning Groups; these include the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) and the proposed Commissioning Outcomes Framework (COF)".
It said that its service is integrated with HSCIC national infrastructure services to ensure that "information governance security rules are appropriately applied to the system".
According to the NHS, patients' data that private companies could get access to will not be able to be used for marketing purposes or to raise insurance premiums.
But since the NHS denied the allegations, the Telegraph found that 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients – was sold by the NHS for insurance purposes.
The disclosure came just after the NHS decided to put its GP extraction scheme on hold – it was initially meant to have started in March, but has now been delayed by six months to "allow more time to build understanding of the benefits of using the information, what safeguards are in place, and how people can opt out".
Privacy campaigners, as well as the Royal College of General Practitioners (RGCP) and the British Medical Association (BMA) had said there was not enough awareness about the scheme among the general public, and suggested that such a scheme should be opt-in rather than opt-out.
But those who may have been worried about issues other than privacy, such as the IT behind such a deal may not be encouraged by the selection of Atos, particularly as the firm wants to end its government contract with the DWP early.
Atos said it would continue to take the tests until a new firm takes over, but the government has been alarmed at the declining standards of the French company.