NHS in crisis talks as pressure mounts to halt launch of new patient database

People are uninformed about the new system and the NHS has admitted there is a privacy risk

NHS England officials are holding crisis talks over the introduction of a new database that extracts patient records from GP systems, as criticism mounts over the organisation's handling of the launch, its approach to informing the public about their options and privacy concerns.

Although care.data is due to start extracting and storing patient records next month, the British Medical Association (BMA) has also called for the scheme to be halted until the NHS has made better efforts to communicate its plans, according to the Telegraph.

Care.data will allow the NHS to sell access to datasets on to private companies and researchers, which supporters claim will greatly improve advancements in healthcare.

However, critics have hit out at the scheme and said that although the data will be 'pseudonymised', it will only be a matter of time before identifiable patient data will be held by a number of companies across the world and patients won't be able to do anything about it.

This concern was amplified when it was revealed yesterday that the NHS itself has admitted in a risk analysis of the system that there is a risk of patient data being identified if the care.data datasets are companied with other publicly available datasets.

NHS England is currently distributing leaflets to households across the country about the benefits of care.data, which it claims provides "low-cost answers" to questions about the quality of care that would have been difficult to answer previously.

However, a poll for BBC Radio 4's PM programme has found that less than a third of adults recall getting a leaflet about the changes to the handling of medical records. Only 29 percent of 860 adults polled by ICM research recalled getting one.

The poll also found that approximately 45 percent of people remain unaware of the plan to share data from their GP medical records.

NHS England told the BBC that the leaflets were only one way it was informing people about the changes, but it would look into why so few people reported receiving information through their letterboxes.

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