GPs to send ‘opt-out’ letters

By Sooraj Shah
04 Jul 2014 View Comments

GP practices that are to pilot the NHS's controversial programme are to send out letters to patients explaining that they have a right to ‘opt-out'.

The pilots which are to begin this autumn will see up to 500 GP practices trialling the initiative ahead of a national rollout.

Further reading

NHS England has drawn up a template letter for GPs to send to patients in order to "meet their obligations under the Data Protection Act", minutes of the scheme's programme board meeting, first seen by GP magazine Pulse have revealed.

The minutes state that the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) will have web pages that provide more detailed information on what data is collected, processed and released to "support fair processing as required by the Data Protection Act".

It also states that the HSCIC will not sell the linked data to any third party for a profit, but that it will charge a fee to cover its costs.

"The HSCIC does not make profits from providing data to other organisations, nor does it subsidise any applicants to receive it," the document reads.

The NHS has been put under scrutiny after an internal review by the NHS Information Centre (NHS IC) revealed that millions of patients' NHS data had been sold to private companies over the last decade.

The NHS IC has since been replaced by HSCIC, and Computing has questioned whether the organisation has been in denial over the handling of sensitive data.

Privacy campaigners, who had protested for the scheme to be ‘opt-in' rather than ‘opt-out', have since suggested that the NHS should demonstrate that it has taken steps to rectify how it shares data before GPs start piloting the scheme.

NHS England had also been criticised for trying to push the burden on GPs to inform patients about the scheme, and was instead forced to send leaflets to households explaining what the programme was about.

In April, HSCIC revealed to Computing, through a Freedom of Information request, that the programme had cost it £1.3m. This included £926,778 that went to distribution company Leaflet Co Ltd for the handling of the awareness leaflets.


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