NHS England’s campaign to educate patients on how their data is used has started today (6 January 2014).
England’s 26.5 million households will receive a leaflet detailing the benefits of sharing information about the care they receive through.
According to NHS England, sharing information helps to ensure that the quality and safety of services is consistent across the country, while also highlighting the diseases and conditions which may require more investment.
Patients have been told to inform their GP if they object to their data being used for purposes other than direct care.
Dr Mark Davies, medical director at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, said: “The Health and Social Care Information Centre was set up as the legal ‘safe haven’ for protecting and managing patient information. We want everyone to feel confident that their information is kept private and used in non-identifiable form to improve the quality of health and social care for everyone. Equally important is that everyone knows that they have a choice and can raise an objection by simply talking to their GP.”
Dr Geraint Lewis, chief data officer at NHS England, said: “The NHS has been collecting information like this from hospitals for decades but until now we’ve been missing information about the quality of care provided outside hospital. This initiative is about upgrading our information systems to get a more complete picture of the quality of care being delivered across all parts of the NHS and social care”
Dr Tony Calland, chair of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee, said: "The BMA is extremely pleased that NHS England is raising awareness about changes to the way patient data is handled in the NHS. It is vital that people are fully informed about what their data will be used for and how they can object to its use if they wish to.
“Although data is needed so that commissioning groups can effectively plan local services, it is crucial that patients have confidence in how their personal information is stored and used.
"Following the efforts of the BMA, commissioners will only have access to anonymised or pseudonymised data and if patients decide not to give permission for their data to be shared they can inform their GP.”