NHS data grab delayed by three months

The NHS has delayed plans to share NHS medical records from every GP patient in Englwith third parties.

Health social care minister Jo Churchill announced this week that the patient data sharing programme would be now rolled-out on 1 September instead of 1 July.

Patients previously only had until 23 June to opt-out by presenting a form to their GPs. Patients will now be given until 25 August to opt-out, by contacting their GP practice. 

Churchill said the extra time would be used to “talk to doctors, patients charities to strengthen the plan.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) called the new development “an important win for patients, family doctors the BMA”.

However, privacy campaigners say more needs to be done to publicise the plans give people the choice to opt-out.

Phil Booth of privacy organisation, medconfidential, said: “Nothing said means that patients will definitely have more information after the delay over the summer.” 


Campaigners, the BMA the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) are among those who have expressed concern that the plans have not been well-publicised, leaving doctors to inform patients.

There are also fears about sensitive information on GP records being shared, including mental sexual health, criminal records, smoking, drinking habits instances of domestic abuse.

NHS Digital says the current system for collecting patient data is more than 10 years old needs replacing.


Previous NHS plans to put GP records in a central database under the Care.data programme were abandoned in 2016 after outcry from campaigners the public.


Newly appointed CEO of NHS Digital, Simon Bolton, said: “Data saves lives has huge potential to rapidly improve care outcomes, as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. The vaccine rollout could not have been delivered without effective use of data to ensure it reached the whole population. We are absolutely determined to take people with us on this mission. We take our responsibility to safeguard the data we hold incredibly seriously.”

BMA GP committee executive team member IT lead Dr Farah Jameel said: “We know from our members that many family doctors feel that all their patients may not yet know what’s changing, many practices do not believe that they themselves have been given the right level of information nor adequate time to comprehensively understthe programme, its merits the safeguards it will operate within. It’s clear that previous communications from NHS Digital on this programme has, frankly, been either inadequate or non-existent.”

Foxglove director Cori Crider said: “We our partners are pleased that, belatedly, the government has seen sense. Now it needs to properly involve people answer key questions. The government must make sure every single patient in Englis meaningfully informed about what is happening to their data.”

This story was updated on 16 June 2021. 

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