GP takes ‘unlawful’ decision to opt patients out of programme 1

Alex Matthews-King writes in Pulse:

A GP has taken the decision to automatically opt all of his patients out of the extract scheme despite being told it is “against the law to do so”.

The GP in Oxford, who wished to remain anonymous, has sent a letter to students and staff at the university “with a further letter to be sent to his non-university patient population shortly” to inform them they will have to opt in to the scheme if they wish to have their data used by NHS England.

He was taking this approach, which he understands is against the law, because of fears that the information will be misused and will not be fully anonymous as the Government has promised.

Under the scheme, patient identifiable data from GP records will be extracted using the General Practice Extraction System and shared with the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The information body will link the primary care data with secondary care data and publish bulletins of anonymised aggregate information.

However, it has proved controversial, with some LMCs saying they are considering boycotting the programme, while the BMA have also received enquiries from LMCs and GPs considering putting “opt out” read codes in all their patients records until they have explicit patient consent. However, this is the first reported letter being sent out to patients.

The letter, dated 15 October and seen by Pulse, said: “In spite of the fact that I am told it is against the law to do so, my intention is to automatically OPT OUT all my patients and allow you to OPT IN if you so wish.”