Deadline to opt out of GP medical records being shared fast approaching, Sheffield doctor warns

The deadline to opt out of a Government plan to share GP’s patient medical records will pass on June 23, a Sheffield doctor has warned.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 10:25 am

The plan would see all living patients’ GP records shared to NHS Digital – which provides information and data to analysts, clinicians and commissioners in health and social care in England.

Previously, GP medical records remained confidential between patient and doctor.

The Government first published details of the plan on May 12 – the morning after the Queen’s Speech, in which none of the detail was mentioned.

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Doctors have raised concern about the Government's plans to allow sharing of medical records. Photo is for illustrative purposes only. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Dr Heather Sowden has issued the warning as she is concerned that the public has not been made properly aware of the Government’s plan.

Dr Sowden said: “There is no public engagement or awareness regarding this but I believe people should be aware and given the option to opt out in time.

“This was proposed in 2013 but was scrapped due to public outrage.

"I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for the public to have a say about what is done with their confidential medical records.

"The principles of trust, informed consent and confidentiality are at the core of the doctor patient relationship and in this circumstance the public have neither been informed or given their consent.”

Medical confidentiality action group medConfidential has outlined the Government’s intentions in a bid to aid public awareness.

A spokesperson for the group said: “From 1 July 2021, and every day thereafter, the Government has directed NHS Digital to take from your and your family’s GP records.

“This includes: data about diagnoses, symptoms, observations, test results, medications, allergies, immunisations, referrals, recalls and appointments, including information about physical, mental and sexual health; data on sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation; and data about staff who have treated patients.

“NHS Digital states that data may be shared from the GP medical records about any living patient registered at a GP practice in England when the collection started – this includes children and adults.

“It goes on to say the data will be shared ‘from 1 July 2021’, although NHS Digital says that you only have until 23 June 2021 to opt out – if you haven’t opted out by the time your entire GP history is first sent to NHS Digital this summer, your information will never be deleted.”

In order to opt out, patients need to download and print off a form before signing it and delivering it to their GP surgery, where it can be acted on. This is the part that needs to be done before June 23.

You can then opt out of non-GP data, such as hospital or clinic treatments, being shared via the NHS website or app.

Dr Sowden has criticised the Government for making the opting out process ‘as difficult as possible’.

She added: “As if GPs aren’t busy enough! The potential for people to congregate at their GPs surgeries isn’t a great idea, given that we’re in the middle of a pandemic! Also not everyone has access to a printer. It’s like trying to make it as difficult as possible for people to opt out.”

medConfidential has written a guide on how to opt out should you wish to do so. That guide on how to opt out can be found here.