Updated: Tuesday, 7th July 2020 @ 11:04pm

Manchester patients welcome scheme sharing anonymous data from doctor visits with NHS – only 5% will opt-out

Manchester patients welcome scheme sharing anonymous data from doctor visits with NHS – only 5% will opt-out

By Tim Hyde

Manchester patients are welcoming a scheme that allows anonymised data from visits to the doctor to be collected by the NHS.

In a poll by MM 95% of people said they were happy with their information being passed on and only 5% said they would use the opt-out option available to all.

Leaflets explaining how the NHS uses patient information will begin landing on the doormats of England’s 26.5million households this week.

The data, which the NHS claims is impossible to track back to individuals, will be collected to help improve patient care by giving a fuller picture of the nation’s disease and treatment patterns.

MM spoke to a GP from Greater Manchester and asked him his thoughts on the scheme. He said: “People shouldn’t be worried about their personal details being shared, there are regulations in place so that patients can’t be identified.

“Hopefully with the new research, it will help to improve patient care and ensure we move forward in providing the best service possible.

“The more information we can get for patients the better service we will be able to provide in the future, so I hope people won’t have a problem with their data being shared.”

Over the next four weeks, every household in England will receive a Better Information Means Better Care leaflet explaining the benefits of sharing information about the care they have received.

Hospital data is already collected and analysed, but NHS England say that extending the initiative to general practices means it will be possible to get a full picture of disease and treatment patterns.

Clinics will be able to collect valuable information from patients, which will go towards highlighting ways that services can improve.

Dr Imran Rafi, Chair of the Clinical Innovation and Research Centre at the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “I fully support this initiative.

“GPs understand the importance of sharing information appropriately both as part of delivering clinical care and for wider uses, such as research and for planning NHS services.

“It is important that patients understand how the NHS uses and shares their information, and that they feel they have been given a proper choice to participate. The spin-off is the potential for all NHS patients to benefit.”

If patients feel uncomfortable about their private information being used to improve the NHS, they are able to contact there GP and ‘opt-out’ of the new scheme.

The NHS treats millions of patients a week across England and by analysing the data recorded new treatments can be implemented or altered.

Dr Mark Davies, Medical Director at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, said: “The Health and Social Care Information Centre was set up as the legal safe haven for protecting and managing patient information. 

“We want everyone to feel confident that their information is kept private and used in non-identifiable form to improve the quality of health and social care for everyone.

“Equally important is that everyone knows that they have a choice and can raise an objection by simply talking to their GP.”

Dr Geraint Lewis, Chief Data Officer at NHS England, added: “The NHS has been collecting information like this from hospitals for decades but until now we’ve been missing information about the quality of care provided outside hospital.

“This initiative is about upgrading our information systems to get a more complete picture of the quality of care being delivered across all parts of the NHS and social care.”

MM took to the streets to find out what the public thought of the changes and to find out how many people would 'opt-out'.

A bartender from Salford, Jamie Coldwell said: “Medical documents are only seen by doctors and they are bound by confidentiality, so it’s more effort than it’s worth trying to stop your data from being used.”

Kelly Royle, 34, a chemist, from Preston, added: “I can’t see the new information making much of a difference, but people shouldn’t have a problem with GP’s using their details tom help improve the overall service.”

Dan Stone, a business analyst from Chorlton, said: “It is about time that they used everyone’s records, they need to do everything they can to improve the health service.

“I don’t see why people wouldn’t want their details to be used.”

The 24-year-old claimed that as long as his records were kept within the NHS, that he had no problem with his records being used to help improve treatments.

Darcy Clowes, 19, a student from Manchester, said: “My medical information is private, and I don’t really want other people looking at it. I can’t see how it will help the NHS I don’t really see the point.”

An information line has been set up for patients to call if they have any questions or concerns about how their data will be used on 0300 456 3531.

Picture courtesy of Michael Tam, with thanks.

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