RCGP calls for campaign to win support for care.data scheme

The RCGP has called for a major public campaign about the care.data scheme, warning that with just weeks to go until its official roll-out, patients have yet to be 'properly informed' about its benefits or their right to opt out.

Care.data scheme: RCGP demands campaign to raise awareness
Care.data scheme: RCGP demands campaign to raise awareness

A statement from the college suggested the future of the care.data scheme could be put at risk unless communication with the public improved.

RCGP honorary secretary Professor Nigel Mathers said: ‘We are very concerned that, with just seven weeks to go before the national roll-out, the public have not been properly informed about the benefits of and the safeguards surrounding the care.data programme.

‘The inevitable result of the failure to make the case for the scheme is the crisis of public confidence that we are now seeing.’

Professor Mathers called for a ‘renewed national push’ by NHS England and the government to provide clear information about the benefits of care.data and patients’ rights.

‘Many GPs remain uncertain about the safeguards that will apply,’ he added.

‘The college remains supportive of the care.data initiative in principle, as we believe that it will help the NHS improve the quality of care for patients and to better prepare for outbreaks of infectious disease, such as flu, through for example, the use of shared suitably anonymised data to build up a picture of which treatments work best.

‘However we urgently need reassurance about what plans are being made to address current GP and public concerns to restore public confidence in the scheme.’

During January an NHS England campaign was intended to send leaflets about the care.data scheme to 22 million households in the UK.

Earlier this month, a Labour MP warned GPs were being bullied into preventing patients opting out of the care.data scheme.

An NHS England spokeswoman said: 'This data is crucial for the NHS to understand how best to serve patients. It will let us really understand what is going on in our healthcare system so we can improve services for all.

'We’re absolutely committed to ensuring the public are aware of the benefits of this initiative and their rights to opt-out. This is why we have sent a leaflet to every household in England. We have also provided leaflets and posters to every GP practice, articles in all the major newspapers, information on the NHS Choices website, information via social media, a video animation, as well as information cascaded via 350,000 patient groups and charities.

'This is an ongoing exercise of engagement. We are actively talking with doctors' groups, patients and charities about how we can better and further explain this programme and people’s right to opt out. Throughout this programme we have met with the RCGP and will be meeting with them again soon to discuss their concerns.'

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