A GROUP of city GPs are worried their patients have no idea they can opt out of a scheme that trawls their medical records for information.

The care.data scheme launches later this year and is a programme that means information including patients’ date of birth, full postcode, NHS number, gender and medical history can be used to improve local health services.

But patients can opt out of the scheme but nine GPs at the Donnington Medical Partnership, previously Dr Anscombe and Partners, have said the Government has not done enough to inform patients about this.

The Government has told surgeries it is their responsibility to inform patients about the scheme, but Dr Merlin Dunlop said they had not been given enough time.

Care.data is being run by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and NHS England.

Dr Dunlop said: “It is now our responsibility to tell patients effectively but to write to all of our patients will cost a vast amount of money and won’t necessarily reach them all.

“We have put up posters in the surgery and will be printing information on all prescriptions over the coming weeks but not everyone is going to come to the surgery in that time frame.”

He added: “The level of understanding is very low, even by other doctors, and that is worrying. People need to know they can opt out or what will be happening to their information.”

The practice has 13,500 registered patients in the city but Dr Dunlop said they expected only five to 10 per cent of them to visit the surgery, and see the posters, in the next few weeks.

By Monday, 52 patients had opted out of the programme.

Chief executive of the county’s Local Medical Committee Dr Paul Roblin said: “I think there is universal concern and alarm about this and the power the Government has given itself.”

Abingdon GP Dr Prit Buttar agreed: “I feel quite uneasy about it and I think they way it has been handled puts the onus on GPs to educate people.

“I have enough to do in my normal job without having to explain things like this to everyone.”

Tim Carter, of NHS England South, said: “It is of paramount importance to both NHS England and the HSCIC that the public understand how their personal confidential information will be used and the safeguards in place to protect it. Advice sought by NHS England and by the HSCIC suggested that GP practices should have a minimum of eight weeks in which to inform their patients and discuss any concerns before extracts of data begin under the care.data programme.

“We have been clear all along, however, that eight weeks is a minimum requirement, not a maximum. “Working closely with the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practioners, we are supporting GP practices to make sure that patients understand the programme and are aware of their rights.

“We are currently finalising our plans at a national and regional level to raise patient awareness.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “This is a very important development and GPs are right that the Government should be doing a lot more itself to publicise what is involved, the benefits which are claimed, the protection of confidential information, and patients’ right to withhold information.

“Leaving it to GPs to deal with this adds a considerable bureaucratic burden, which is the last thing the NHS needs right now. I am putting down Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Health.”

  • Your name will not be used. Your date of birth, full postcode, NHS number and gender will be used to link your records in a secure system, managed by the HSCIC.
  • A new record will then be created.s “Coded” information will be taken. This is information such as a test result or a prescription.
  • It is separate to the Summary Care Record which can be used by other healthcare professionals.
  •  Unless you opt out, the information will be taken and in some parts of the UK could be as early as this autumn.