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Technology / Cybersecurity

NHS faces backlash over Care.data restart in Blackburn

The NHS’s decision to restart a patient data scheme prompted outrage from privacy advocates this week as concerns returned over the health service’s use of medical data.

Under plans from Blackburn with Darwen, a clinical commissioning group responsible for provisioning health services in the two Lancashire towns, patients will be notified at the end of June that they can opt out of having their medical records put on a central database.

Somerset, Leeds and West Hampshire are also planning to begin similar efforts at the start of September, in what is known as "fair processing".

Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, a lobby group that opposes the move, said: "It beggars belief that Care.data should be restarted before the serious outstanding problems with the scheme have been fixed and, just as importantly, been seen to be fixed.

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"The shambolic mess that Care.data has become must be cleared up before another single patient is contacted."

Originally rolled out in 2014, Care.data was mooted as a means of improving patient care within the NHS by connecting data from general practitioners, hospitals and other medical centres.

Critics allege that the scheme is also being used to allow private businesses to profit from patients’ personal data, and that patient instructions to opt out of Care.data have been ignored by health groups.

"What are the million patients who opted out last year supposed to think?" Booth said, referring to the news earlier this month that at least 700,000 patients’ records were kept despite their instructions to the contrary.

"Their objections have all been ignored, so why should they or anyone else trust a zombie data grab that hasn’t even got in place statutory backing for [health secretary] Jeremy Hunt’s guarantee to patients, or defined legal safeguards promised last summer?"

NHS England has yet to respond to requests for comment from CBR.
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