GP data extraction delayed by two months after widespread concerns

Plans for a major extraction of patient data from GP practice IT systems have been delayed by two months after concerns over a lack of publicity and time for practices to communicate with patients.

Data extraction delayed (Photo: Marko Geber/Getty Images)
Data extraction delayed (Photo: Marko Geber/Getty Images)

NHS Digital confirmed that 'to provide more time to speak with patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan even further, the collection of GP data for Planning and Research in England has been deferred from the 1 July to the 1 September 2021'.

NHS Digital had previously told practices that the new programme to extract data from GP IT systems would start from 1 July. The General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) service is being rolled out to replace the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) system that has been in place for the past decade.

The overhaul will see NHS Digital extract a broad range of patient data from practice systems - including '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; data about staff who have treated patients'.

Patient data extraction

Campaigners say the extraction amounts to taking 'almost all the coded data from your patient record' - and have raised concerns that patients may not have been adequately informed about the plans.

Dozens of GP practices had already said they planned to block the extraction of data on the original date of 1 July - by refusing to switch on permission for the data extraction to begin.

The BMA called earlier this month for the data extraction to be delayed - warning that the ‘timeline is far too short’ and that NHS Digital ‘has not transparently and actively engaged the public’ to increase awareness around the changes.

The Labour party had also backed calls for the programme to be delayed. Shadow public health minister Alex Norris wrote to NHS Digital to raise concerns - and said on Twitter that he shared 'concerns raised by patients, GPs and the health sector about the changes to data sharing'.

COVID-19 vaccine

Confirming the change first announced in parliament by a government health minister, NHS Digital chief executive Simon Bolton said: 'Data saves lives and has huge potential to rapidly improve care and outcomes, as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. The vaccine rollout could not have been delivered without effective use of data to ensure it reached the whole population.

'We are absolutely determined to take people with us on this mission. We take our responsibility to safeguard the data we hold incredibly seriously. We intend to use the next two months to speak with patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan even further.'

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