As published in the Daily Mail:
NHS bosses bullying Gps into sharing their patients data says MPs
Politicians yesterday accused NHS bosses of trying to bully’ family doctors into handing over patients’ medical files.
Forcing GPs to allow officials to harvest confidential records from next month is unacceptable’, MPs said.
Their comments come as a growing number of doctors join a rebellion against the scheme – with one saying he has been threatened with the sack and another accusing managers of Big Brother’ tactics.
Tory MP David Davis last night described it as a frankly disgraceful’ treatment of patient confidentiality.
He added: This is no doubt why a growing number of GPs are refusing to comply with the proposed scheme. It is frankly unacceptable for the NHS to attempt to bully those GPs to break their own duty of confidentiality to their patients.
Mr Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden in East Yorkshire, added: There is no information more sensitive than medical records, but it is entirely possible to collect enough useful medical data without trampling on patients’ privacy in this way.’
From next month, officials will begin harvesting data from the records of every patient in the country unless they have raised specific objections.
A growing number of GPs deeply oppose the scheme and at least four GPs – including one in Oxford who has been threatened with the sack – are defying bosses by opting-out the thousands of patients on their books.
NHS England, the authority that runs the health service, has now warned that it will look out for abnormal numbers’ of patient objections when the project begins next month.
If officials identify particular surgeries where nearly all patients have opted-out, GPs could be threatened with breach of contract notices’ – effectively the sack. One GP – Dr Gordon Gancz, who practises in Oxford – received such a warning last week after pledging not to pass on files from 4,000 patients.
And Dr John McCormack, a GP in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, is opting out all his patients unless they have told him otherwise. He said: GPs are caught in the crossfire. On the one hand we are told that we are responsible for our patients’ records.
On the other you have Big Brother in the guise of NHS England saying that if you don’t hand over all the records they will come and knock on your door and give you a very hard time.’
He said the possibility of being visited for not fully complying with the scheme represented a little threat’ that the NHS is going to come and take away your contract’.
NHS England claims the data will be used to improve healthcare by highlighting areas with long waiting times or where patients are not being prescribed a certain medication.
But there are concerns that it could be sold to profit-making private firms – or insurers that could use it to hike up premiums for some patients.
Doctors also fear patients will be deterred from divulging personal information about their lifestyle or symptoms in case it falls into the wrong hands – which could mean serious illnesses are missed. Patients can opt-out of the scheme by telling their doctor during a routine appointment, over the phone, by a letter or an email – but the method will vary between surgeries.
Bristol North West MP Charlotte Leslie, who sits on the Commons Health Select Committee, said: Anything to do with patient data has to be handled extremely carefully. For GP surgeries to be so concerned about it is worrying. There should not be any question at all about the data being sold on to private companies.
It would be better for people to own their own data – securely – in a similar way to online banking, so they can decide and it would encourage people to take more interest in their health.’
NHS England said no action would be taken against GPs until next month, when the project is expected to begin.
Officials will work with the two main doctor unions, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs to review abnormal numbers of patient objections,’ it said. A spokesman added that GPs who do not supply patients’ data are effectively breaking the law.
Before today, we agreed with the BMA and RCGP that we would work with them to review cases of abnormal numbers of patient objections. However, this review will take place once extractions begin, not before.
As discussed, although GPs will be in breach of the Health and Social Care Act if they do not participate in the first extractions of data, those first extractions will not take place before March.’