NHS Connecting for Health begins a public consultation today on whether details given by patients to GPs, clinics and hospitals should be shared with medical researchers and others.
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The consultation is likely to highlight the divide between those who want more open sharing of medical records, in the interests of research, and those who want patient information kept as confidential as possible.
Connecting for Health is seeking views on the Secondary Uses Service, which holds details of almost all visits by patients to hospitals and GPs, partly for research purposes.
The SUS service is run by BT under the NHS's National Programme for IT. It is unclear to health officials how much information on the SUS should be shared inside and outside the NHS: for example, with council social services departments and researchers.
As well as the SUS, NHS Connecting for Health, which is part of the Department of Health, is largely responsible for the NHS Care Records Service, which aims to give 50 million people in England an electronic medical record.
NHS Connecting for Health says the Care Records Service "offers new opportunities, with the electronic collection of clinical and patient data".
For more detail on this story see Tony Collins' IT Projects Blog: Sharing patient records - Whitehall consults >>