Privacy complaints over new NHS patient database just "scaremongering"

Care.data was due to be launched in April, but has since been delayed until autumn

Critics raising privacy concerns over a new NHS database that will extract patient data from GP systems are just "peddling scaremongering myths", according to medical research organisations.

Patients4Data, an umbrella group for more than 70 bodies, told the BBC that opponents could potentially prevent patients benefiting from a revolution in modern medicine.

The comments come the same week that NHS England decided to delay the launch of care.data after critics hit out at the scheme. Opponents have 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.

It was due to launch in April, but will now be delayed by six months.

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, the NHS has admitted in a risk analysis of the system that there is a danger of patient data being identified if the care.data datasets are companied with other publicly available datasets.

George Freeman, a conservative MP and founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies, said: "There are those who oppose not just the mechanism of data handling but the principle of patient empowerment and greater accountability.

"We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine. There are issues to be addressed. But data is a force for good, not a Big Brother-style conspiracy."

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. The delay in going live with the system has been put in place in order to allow the NHS to better inform the public about the benefits of the database.

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