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A third of practice managers have knowledge gap around Government’s patient data-sharing programme

by Julie Griffiths
12 August 2022

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Nearly a third of practice managers do not know about the General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) scheme, which allows patient data to be collected from GP records, a survey by NHS Digital has shown.

The survey, launched in May, asked general practice staff about GPDPR and the use of health data. It found that 32% of practice managers ‘did not know’ about the patient data extraction programme, compared with 26% of GPs. 

The findings show that 30% of general practice staff said they had not seen, heard or read anything about GPDPR. A further 5% did not know if they had.

In May last year, NHS Digital announced it would be rolling out GPDPR, which it described as a ‘new and improved’ GP data collection system. Campaigners warned the planned mass extraction of patient data from GP records would potentially make sensitive patient data available to private firms and the scheme was delayed.

No new date has been announced for its launch. But this latest survey by NHS Digital revealed practice staff were unsure about how to communicate the changes to their patients.

It found that while 49% of respondents were supportive of the aims of the programme in principle, nearly a quarter (24%) said they were not confident in explaining the programme to their patients.

Only 18% felt they have received sufficient information about it all.

The NHS says that confidential patient information can be used to help the health service with research and planning but that patients can opt out in one of two ways. 

They can opt out of all personal data sharing for research and planning across NHS Digital and other health and care organisations. 

Alternatively, patients can choose to stop their GP surgery sharing their data but allow NHS Digital to collect and share data from other healthcare providers, such as hospitals. This requires the patient to fill in an opt-out form and give it to their GP.  This is a Type 1 opt-out and only practices can process it.

A third (33%) of respondents in the survey stated that they did not know what a Type 1 data opt-out was, with the majority having never heard of it before.

Awareness was higher among practice managers, however. While more than half (56%) of GPs did not know what a Type 1 data opt-out is, only 9% of practice managers said the same. NHS Digital acknowledged that it needed ‘to boost knowledge in Type 1 opt-outs and GPDPR’.

It said the next steps were to work with general practice staff to co-create the materials needed to ‘fill the knowledge gap’. In addition, NHS Digital said it wants to ‘openly identify and discuss concerns and benefits of the work’. 

It plans to conduct qualitative research with GP staff across various roles to build a picture of how staff interact with patients on data and develop messaging to help communication and reduce the burden of managing patient data.