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Technology / Cybersecurity

UK scraps controversial NHS data sharing scheme

The UK government has scrapped a controversial project that was aimed at sharing health records of UK citizens.

The scheme, care.data,proposed the creation of a huge database of medical records of everyone in the NHS. This data would then have been available to doctors, researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

The announcement of the scrapping of the scheme comes after the completion of two independent reviews conducted to examine the data security in Britain’s healthcare system.

In September 2015, George Freeman, the life sciences minister, had commissioned the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Dame Fiona Caldicott, the National Data Guardian for Health and Care (NDG), to make recommendations about the health and care system in England and a new consent/opt-out model for data sharing.

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Freeman said: "In light of Dame Fiona’s recommendations, NHS England has taken the decision to close the care.data programme.

"However, the government and the health and care system remain absolutely committed to realising the benefits of sharing information, as an essential part of improving outcomes for patients.

"Therefore this work will now be taken forward by the National Information Board, in close collaboration with the primary care community, in order to retain public confidence and to drive better care for patients."

The government had already invested £7.5m in the project which was estimated to cost £50m, The Telegraph reported.

While medical experts and charities supported the creation of such a database, data protection campaigners cautioned over the risk of identification.

Recommendations made by Dame Fiona Caldicott included introduction of new sanctions on deliberate or negligent breach of patient data in the NHS.

She said: "Citizens have a right to know how their data is safeguarded. They should be included in conversations about the potential benefits that responsible use of their information can bring.

"They must be offered a clear choice about whether they want to allow their information to be part of this."

The care.data project was initially proposed to launch to 2014 but delayed due to concerns raised by the campaigners over the lack of clarity in its usage.

In June last year, the Major Projects Authority said that the controversial government scheme was ‘unachievable’.

 
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CBR Staff Writer

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