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GP Update

Volume 644: debated on Monday 2 July 2018

NHS Digital recently identified a supplier defect in the processing of historical patient objections to the sharing of their confidential health data. An error occurred when 150,000 type 2 objections[1] set between March 2015 and June 2018 in GP practices running TPP’s system were not sent to NHS Digital. As a result, these objections were not upheld by NHS Digital in its data disseminations between April 2016, when the NHS Digital process for enabling them to be upheld was introduced, and 26 June 2018. This means that data for these patients has been used in clinical audit and research that helps drive improvements in outcomes for patients.

Since being informed of the error by TPP, NHS Digital acted swiftly and it has now been rectified. NHS Digital made the Department of Health and Social Care aware of the error on 28 June. NHS Digital manages the contract for GP systems of choice on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.

TPP has apologised unreservedly for its role in this matter and has committed to work with NHS Digital so that errors of this nature do not occur again. This will ensure that patients' wishes on how their data is used are always respected and acted upon.

NHS Digital will write to all TPP GP practices today to make sure that they are aware of the issue and can provide reassurance to any affected patients. NHS Digital will also write to every affected patient. Patients need to take no action and their objections are now being upheld.

There is not, and has never been, any risk to patient care as a result of this error. NHS Digital has made the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Data Guardian for Health and Care aware.

As part of our commitment to the secure and safe handling of health data, on 25 May 2018 the Government introduced the new national data opt-out. The national data opt-out replaces type 2 objections. This has simplified the process of registering an objection to data sharing for uses beyond an individual’s care. The new arrangements give patients direct control over setting their own preferences for the secondary use of their data and do not require the use of GP systems, and therefore will prevent a repeat of this kind of GP systems failure in the future.

The Government have the highest regard for data standards and are committed to ensuring patients can express a preference over how health data is shared for purposes beyond their own care.

[1] Where individuals did not want NHS Digital to share confidential patient information that they had collected from across the health and care service for purposes other than the individuals care, they could register this preference, known as a type 2 opt-out.