Victory for privacy as NHS database is delayed

Charlie Cooper writes for the Independent:

Controversial plans to trawl patient records from every GP surgery in England have been put on hold, amid concerns from doctors and ministers that the public have not been properly informed about how their private data will be used. The care.data programme, which was scheduled to begin collecting the confidential information from GPs in April, will now be delayed until the autumn, NHS England has announced.

The pause will allow the NHS more time to inform people about “ the benefits of using the information, what safeguards are in place, and how people can opt out if they choose to,” officials said.

The Department of Health has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks that NHS England has not sufficiently reassured the public – nor the medical profession – about how the care.data programme would benefit patients. Critics have also warned that the private data, which will be held centrally in a “pseudonymised” form, could be vulnerable to hackers who would be able to identify individual patients.

The data, with identifiable features removed, will also be routinely available to third parties, including private healthcare companies and privacy campaigners have warned that patients will have no way of knowing who is handling their data.

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