The first step in an NHS England initiative to link information from general practice to hospital and community care services has been launched.
Created in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA), the GP Technical Specification explains how general practice data will be collected, anonymised and used to improve patient care.
Implementation will start with a small number of practices to test the process, and GP practices will be written to well in advance of any extract so that they can raise awareness with patients about the new service.NHS England believes the scheme will “enable patients to make more informed choices about the treatments and services they use”, while improving “the quality and safety of the NHS”.
Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information for NHS England said: “I am extremely excited about the potential of care.data, of which the GP Technical Specification is the first part, to increase transparency within the health service and encourage greater participation by citizens.
“The care.data service will create an environment where data can flow more securely and effectively, and where the impact and outcomes of treatment and care are much better understood.”
The data will be used to support local health and care commissioners by giving them access to timely and accurate information that they can use to plan health services that best fit the needs of their local community.
Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, said: “Use of data has significant potential for improving patient care so we are pleased to be working with the BMA and NHS England on this important initiative to equip patients, clinicians and commissioners with accurate and timely information about the treatment and care provided by the NHS.
“As we streamline and improve the way data is used in the NHS, it is vital that we continue to safeguard patient confidentiality – the cornerstone of the GP patient relationship – and that patients’ wishes remain paramount, whether or not they choose to allow their data to be used for the benefit of future healthcare.”
Dr Laurence Buckman, BMA GP Committee chair said: “It is important that commissioners have access to data to design services provided that this does not impact upon confidentiality.
"GP practices will play an important role in making sure patients are aware of how their data is used, and addressing their concerns.”