The statement follows BMA warnings that locum and salaried GPs were often left out of PCO ‘information cascades’, which keep doctors aware of NHS alerts and information locally.
The DoH has said that PCOs are unlikely to be found in breach of data protection laws by using personal data provided when doctors join performers lists to send them information.
In a letter to PCT chief executives in England, DoH director of commissioning development Dame Barbara Hakin wrote: ‘It has been suggested that PCTs may have been reluctant to use these personal contact details as they were provided for another purpose and may therefore be considered to be potentially in breach of rules governing use of personal data for other purposes.
‘However, as this is intended to be about communicating important information across all GPs in an area, the department considers that the risks, if any, of PCTs being adjudged in breach of the second data protection principle are minimal.’
BMA sessional GP subcommittee deputy chairman Dr Mark Selman said that the NHS should have set up a mechanism allowing GPs who joined performers lists after the new GMS contract took effect in 2004 to opt in or out of information cascades.
‘It was an oversight. We should be using these lists to cascade information, otherwise locums are out of the loop,’ he said.
Dr Selman said that where he works in Devon the PCT had agreed a ‘pragmatic approach’ with local GPs.
Doctors joining the performers lists were given nhs.net email addresses and asked if they wished to receive PCT information alerts.
Dr Selman called on the NHS Commissioning Board to use the opportunity of the NHS reforms to create an automatic opt-in or opt-out mechanism for doctors joining performers lists.