UK & World News
NHS Records Database Postponed Amid Concerns
Plans to share patients' medical records in a new NHS database in England have been delayed following concerns from doctors.
The scheme to compile mostly anonymised data had been due to begin in April, but the date has now been moved back six months to the autumn.
Doctors' leaders have warned patients were being kept in the dark about the plans and they need to know how their data will be used outside the NHS.
NHS England, which is behind the 'Care.data' database, has said it will use the extra time to raise more public awareness about it, what safeguards are in place and that they can opt out.
Under the scheme, data from GP records would be linked with information from hospitals to give an idea of what happens to patients at all stages.
The data taken from GP systems includes information on family history, vaccinations, referrals for treatment, diagnoses and information about prescriptions.
It will also include biological values such as a patient's blood pressure, body-mass index and cholesterol levels.
Personal confidential data (PCD) identifiers will also be taken, such as date of birth, postcode, NHS number and gender. But written notes a GP makes during a consultation will not be extracted.
The data will be held by the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and anonymised by officials there.
Fully anonymised data will be made available publicly to anyone outside the NHS.
Data considered to be potentially identifiable - including where a patient in a small town has a rare disease - will only be released to approved organisations to benefit the health and social care system.
NHS England plans to make this "amber" data available to organisations outside the NHS, such as medical charities, think-tanks, data analytics companies and universities.
Private firms such as pharmaceutical companies might also be able to obtain the data.
Tim Kelsey, from NHS England, said: "We have been told very clearly that patients need more time to learn about the benefits of sharing information and their right to object to their information being shared."
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