Half of UK citizens say they do not trust the NHS with their personal data, according to a survey conducted by IT services and software provider Unisys.
The Unisys Security Index survey found that there are varying levels of trust in the NHS from different age groups; only 44 per cent of UK respondents over 50 reported that they trust the NHS with their personal data, in contrast to 55 per cent of 18 to 49 year olds.
The findings may alarm the government, as NHS England prepares to roll out its care.data programme. The programme has already been at the sharp end of stinging criticism from patients, doctors and privacy groups over plans to extract patient record information from GPs' surgeries to a centralised database, from where it could be sold on to pharmaceutical companies, researchers and other organisations.
This led to the NHS delaying the programme for at least six months, with the organisation's new chief executive, Simon Stevens, telling MPs that the programme's "artificial start date" should not be set in stone.
Dr. Gerhard Knecht, head of global security services and compliance, Unisys Enterprise Services, urged the NHS to work on reassuring a large number of UK citizens that it can safely handle their personal data.
"The government must focus on educating the public on how their data will be treated and what security measures will be taken before its second attempt to launch the programme," he said.
However, when UK respondents were asked to select three types of organisations they most trust with their personal data from a list, the NHS was the second most selected (cited by 50 per cent of respondents). This suggests that while many people don't trust the organisation with their data, they struggle to trust many others too.
The list also included financial institutions, central government, private companies and service providers.
Significantly, 15 per cent of those surveyed said they did not trust any of the listed organisations with their data.
The survey also found that just over 50 per cent of respondents are concerned about identity theft and misuse of personal data, while just under half are concerned about other people obtaining and using their credit or debit details.
Unisys surveyed nearly 1,000 UK citizens over the age of 18 in March 2014.
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