The medical records of around 50 million NHS patients are set to be uploaded to the “spine” of a national database early next year without the subjects’ consent.
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The move, reported in the Guardian newspaper, is part of the troubled £12.4bn NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
Specifications drawn up in 2003 for providers of the electronic care record system, a key part of NPfIT, explicitly stated, “A patient will not be entitled to refuse to make their personal data available to the Spine.
“Data about all patient events may be routinely communicated to the Spine without the consent of the patient."
Doctors’ organisations have raised concerns about the lack of explicit consent from NHS patients.
But health minister Lord Warner said, “Those records are not the property of GPs. Other health professionals need to access them to provide safe treatment. In that context, we have no intention of moving away from implementing the electronic care record. But we will ensure there is a public information campaign so that people know what is happening.”
Some basic data – including addresses, aliases and phone numbers - has already been uploaded, the Guardian said. Details of patients’ allergies and the medications they received from them are set to be added in two local pilot schemes early next year.
Information about medical diagnoses and hospital visits will be added later.
The government intends to move ahead on the basis that patients will be allowing opting out of having their data shared between health professionals. But patients will not be allowed to have their information removed from the national system.
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