Sharing and linking GP and other data—lawfully, securely and appropriately—helps to improve care and provides a solid basis for research to benefit everyone. In addition to more than 100 items of correspondence on the GP extraction service received since July 2013, the Department of Health has also had representations on these issues from the Solicitor-General.
I strongly support the better use of data and ICT to improve national health services, but it must be done securely and with informed patient consent, especially when the data are to be sold on. Yet the Health Secretary admits that he has not carried out any risk assessment of the move to a paperless NHS. Has a risk assessment been carried out for the extraction service and, if so, will he commit to publishing it and any recommendations made?
We have, of course, constantly assessed it. I hope the hon. Lady is not criticising the principle of improving and joining up care through better passing of data between services, which obviously has to be a very good thing. Let me reassure her that making available patient-identifiable information to third parties without the patient’s consent or on some other legal basis would be illegal. Information is held securely.
I congratulate Ministers on the reforms to open data and transparency, which have been a powerful catalyst for accountability and improvement in the health service—in particular, the care.data reforms. The Minister will be aware of my ten-minute rule Bill on the subject. Will he give us some assurance on the steps that the Department is taking to ensure the integration of data between the care and the NHS sector?
I can reassure my hon. Friend that the absolute heart of what we are doing on joining up data is ensuring that we join up data better and promote integration. Some of that will come from the £3.8 billion we are providing for more joined-up and integrated care between health and social care as part of our integrated care fund, or better care fund as it is now termed.
I think the hon. Lady will find that it was getting harder under the previous Government. It was not helped by the fact that, as we know, although it was not the fault of GPs, the contract that GPs were presented with by the previous Government made it difficult for many patients in many parts of the country to access primary and community care out of hours.