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Health chiefs warn Mid Devon GPs to assess risk of sharing patient data
8:50am Friday 27th September 2013 in News
HEALTH chiefs in Mid Devon say GPs are “duty bound” to assess the risk posed by a new NHS project which involves sharing confidential patient information.
Devon Local Medical Committee members will be advising GPs on whether they should use the General Practice Extraction Service, making patient records accessible toresearch centresand universities.
The project is being driven by NHS England but has been championed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and it forms part of the Health & Social Care Bill, which was passed in 2011.
Mr Hunt argues that the data will be valuable for medical research and screening for common diseases, but the chair of the North & Eastern Devon LMC subcommittee, which covers Mid Devon, Dr Anthony O’Brien, said he is concerned about how patient anonymity will be protected.
Dr O’Brien, based at Wyndham House Surgery in Silverton, told the Star: “Devon LMC advice is that practices are the data controllers for their patients’ data.
“They must risk assess the options, and if they feel there’s a risk the information extracted under the Government-proposed GPES could identify a patient they are duty bound to refuse upload. Practices ultimately have to make this decision.
“Devon LMC hasn’t decided to advise any particular course of action, but will be producing advice to practices so they understand their obligations and potential risk in allowing or blocking the upload without express patient consent.
“We’re currently awaiting further guidance and confirmation of the facts from the Government and the General Practitioners Committee.”
Dr O’Brien said information about the new service is only just coming to light and it is not yet clear to whom the information will be made available.
He said: “I think all these issues are very concerning, and will need to be questioned and discussed, and they will be.
“What wouldn’t be helpful is people creating a furore before the facts are available – the GP extraction service is something the Government has set up which, in theory, could be beneficial.
“We can understand the theory, and as soon as the facts are available we’ll be broadcasting them to GPs.”
The Health & Social Care Information Centre says the aim of passing on patient information to “approved organisations” is “to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness”.
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