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Top Brit docs wade into GP data grab row, demand 'urgent' NHS England talks

Ill-informed patients deserve to know more about care.data, says BMA

NHS Files on a desk

Pressure is mounting on NHS England to stall its incoming data grab of GP-stored medical records, after another health body said that the government needed to improve public awareness of the controversial scheme.

A stronger campaign was demanded from top doctors at the British Medical Association on Monday.

The care.data plan has been very poorly trailed by NHS England, following the government's half-arsed attempt to inform patients throughout the country about how their medical records could soon be shared with other public health services, researchers and even private companies if they failed to opt out of the scheme in time.

But the pamphlets that were sent out to 26.5 million households in England in January were tucked in with junkmail such as pizza menus and gym membership flyers.

It meant that many people who will be directly affected by the changes to how their GP medical records are stored have no clue about the data grab.

The government has largely ignored the concerns expressed by GPs, privacy campaigners and the UK's data watchdog, all of whom have said that the NHS has failed in its duty to properly and clearly inform patients about the database plans.

Instead, ministers have said that they will learn from the mistakes of the care.data pamphlet drop by ensuring that "lessons are learnt to incorporate in future national mailings".

However, Whitehall is finding itself cornered by a range of bodies who are disappointed with its handling of public awareness of care.data.

In response, the government has now admitted that it is investigating reports that some households did not receive the leaflets about the planned data slurp. But Royal Mail has already said it had adequately fulfilled its £1m contract.

BMA GPs' committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said:

With just weeks to go until the uploading of patient data is scheduled to begin, patients remain inadequately informed about these proposals.

Today we call on the government to ensure public trust in the system by properly informing the public about care.data before the currently planned data extracts commence, and produce evidence this has been achieved prior to uploads taking place.

The BMA said it was planning "urgent discussions" with NHS England to work out ways to better publicise the scheme before the the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shortly begins the arduous task of collecting patient info from GP practices, which will then be linked with hospital data it already stores.

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