A GP has voiced her concerns about the NHS’s controversial new system for collecting and analysing data, Care.data, questioning why the health service needs to obtain so much data from the UK’s citizens.
Dr. Jane Lothian, GP and medical secretary at Northumberland Local Media Committee (LMC), told Computing that while the Summary Care Record programme was just about justified, the amount of information that NHS England now wants to obtain in its Care.data programme seems excessive.
The Summary Care Record contains information about the medicines patients take, allergies they suffer from and any bad reactions to medicines they have had.
Care.data is far wider reaching, and Lothian believes this could be inappropriate, even if it is anonymised like the NHS claims it is, particularly because there hasn’t been clarity on the secondary use of that data by third parties.
“Everything will be coded; the better the practice, the more they will code the data, so some practices might even code the narrative, so it gives the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) a lot of information. It’s all OK if it’s going to be used for public health planning, but there has been suggestions that the data might be accessible to third parties,” she said.
Sensitive data on patients would also be obtained, and Lothian believes that even with measures in place to anonymise data, certain patients’ records could be identifiable.
“Does everyone want to release diagnoses of sexual transmitted diseases, sexual function problems, mental health problems, and very detailed drug lists?” she asked.
“[The LMC] has always accepted and encouraged the use of data for planning health care, but the extraction for potentially identifiable information – and I know the NHS has said that there are many layers of anonymisation, which I believe, but it is just a very big change from the medication and allergies in the Summary Care records, to the whole of somebody’s medical records – you just wonder why so much detail is needed,” she said.
Lothian did however welcome the NHS’s decision to splash out £1m in sending out leaflets to householders to explain the plan. NHS England had initially told Computing that GPs were to raise awareness on their own.
“As GP practices, we are much happier that information-giving will be taken out of our hands, and for something as big as this, it shouldn’t be done on a local level anyway,” she said.