So, what’s happening with all of this patient data being collected and shared?
The information will be made available to academics and commercial third parties, privacy campaigners have claimed. The records will purportedly be used for research and planning, with NHS Digital claiming that records “decide what new health and care services are required in a local area, informs clinical guidance and policy, and supports researching and developing cures for serious illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”
NHS Digital shares a list of who it shares its data with, which is updated each month, although campaigners say it can be extremely difficult to find out who sees the data due to the NHS’ “opaque” commercial relationships. For its part, the NHS says that patient data is never used for insurance or marketing purposes, promoting or selling products or services, market research, or advertising.
According to the NHS, personal medical records will be anonymised to keep your identity secret. However, the code to unscramble the anonymised data will be held by the NHS and will be used to reveal the identity whenever there is “a valid legal reason”.
Digital rights campaigners Foxglove have questioned the legality of the move in a letter sent to the Department of Health and Social Care. Solicitor Rosa Curling wrote in the letter, “Very few members of the public will be aware that the new processing is imminent, directly affecting their personal medical data.”
To remove yourself from the database, you’ll need to fill out a form and submit it to your GP. If you don’t do this before the deadline, your medical records will become a permanent feature of the NHS Digital database. Opting out after June 23 will still work, but will only apply to future data – any historic data will still be available to researchers, academic and commercial partners of the NHS. You can find the form required to opt out here.
This isn’t the first time the NHS has attempted to bring together GP records from patients across the country into a central database. Back in 2013, the Care.data programme was sold as a way to centralise digital health records, however, the project was abandoned three years later over privacy complaints.
The UK’s data regulator is believed to be producing an impact assessment, focusing on data protection, around the current plans from the NHS.
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed