The care.data programme should partially be ‘opt-in’, a senior NHS England official has said.
Dr Mike Bewick (pictured) said he had concerns confidential patient data could be “sold to pharmacy companies”. Patients should be able to decide whether they wanted their data used in such a way, he claims.
Speaking at the Pulse Live conference in Manchester last week Dr Bewick said that there is a “moral imperative” to ensure the patient-record sharing scheme goes ahead.
Dr Bewick believes GPs should reassure patients about the scheme, because it will aid healthcare planning and academic research.
He told the conference: “We have to have good governance over where that data goes and it is shared with universities, with public health, because there is a great advantage to people knowing users of systems when they require interventions that we are able to do and we can’t do it. I’ve heard quotes of, you know, several thousand lives per year that would be saved in terms of reduced mortality.
“I think there is a moral imperative to do it but we really need the messages to come from people who have got over the fact that it is not going to threaten them individually in terms of their personal data security.”
Phil Booth, coordinator of healthcare privacy campaigners medConfidential, said: “The Information Centre has acknowledged how wrong it was and is moving to restore public confidence. We hope Dr Bewick’s statements indicate a similar shift in thinking by the bosses of NHS England.
“While we all may benefit from genuine medical research, commercial exploitation was never part of the NHS social contract. With such low levels of public awareness and high levels of opposition amongst doctors, we think it is time patients were offered choices that reflect their real concerns.”