Patient records to be made available from NHS database

It’s been reported that pharmaceutical and insurance companies will from March this year be able to buy information on patients including mental health conditions and diseases, as well as smoking and drinking habits, once a database of medical data has been created. The information, taken from GP and hospital records, will be uploaded to the database controlled by a new NHS information centre.

Gary from PSI: Advocates of the new initiative claim that sharing data will make medical advances easier and ultimately save lives, as it will allow researchers to investigate drug side effects or the performance of hospital surgical units by tracking the impact on patients. However there has not been universal approval with privacy experts warning that there will be no way for the public to work out who has their medical records or to what use their data will be put.

To ease concern NHS England will shortly circulate a new leaflet entitled Better Information Means Better Care to confirm that parts of the database will be shared with researchers and organisations outside the NHS unless people opt out via their GP.