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NHS rejects criticism of its comms around medical data sharing scheme

NHS England has rejected complaints by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) that the public have not been properly informed about a new data sharing scheme. programme: national roll-out in seven weeks programme: national roll-out in seven weeks

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Responding to a statement issued by the RCGP about the programme yesterday, NHS England said it was absolutely committed to ensuring the public are aware of the benefits of the initiative and their rights to opt out.

A spokesman said: "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 doctor’s 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."

The programme is being promoted as a means to advance medical knowledge by allowing researchers access to medical records on an anonymised basis. However, privacy campaigners have expressed concern that the anonymised database is derived from another database containing personally identifiable information.

RCGP honorary secretary professor Nigel Mathers had said that a failure of communication had led to a crisis of public confidence and a renewed national push was urgently needed.

"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 programme," he said.

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