Pioneer database faces delay after watchdog intervenes

James Illman writes in the Health Service Journal:

NHS England’s controversial plan to extract confidential information from patient records to build a national database faces a delay after an intervention by the information watchdog.

HSJ has learned the Information Commissioner’s Office met with NHS England last Thursday to discuss legal concerns amid mounting general practice opposition to the project, particularly about the speed with which it was being implemented.

The ICO said it was concerned GPs were being given insufficient time to carry out a legal duty to inform patients about the programme, which will link patient data across different care settings, and allow them to opt out if they wish.

In an email seen by HSJ, the Health and Social Care Information Centre – which will run the database – wrote to GP “early adopter” practices on 29 August warning they had “approximately eight weeks” before it began extracting data.

However, NHS England has now agreed data will not be extracted until the ICO has approved its proposed timescales and it has also agreed to run a national awareness campaign.

One expert said it was “very unlikely” NHS England would be able to complete this process and start the extractions in line with the initial mid October timeframe indicated by the 29 August email.