NHS launches public data opt-out campaign

As the strict rules governing how data is used are strengthened, the NHS is joining the ICO’s (Information Commissioner’s Office) broader ‘Your data matters’ campaign to raise awareness of how personal information is used by organisations.

The NHS campaign will initially focus on General Data Protection Regulation and then from early June it will promote the choice the public have with the new national data opt-out. This staged approach is designed to support clinicians and ensure messages are reaching the public in a clear and accessible way.

Dr Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer for Health and Care, said: “Sharing information between health and care professionals can be lifesaving by quickly providing staff with the details they need, from patient histories to previous test results and care plans. The NHS has led the way in research and innovation from discovering DNA to pioneering IVF, looking into the future using data for research could result in even more breakthroughs.

“This campaign will highlight to the public how the health and care system uses their data, safely and securely, to improve the care they receive, plan services and research new treatments and to tell the public ‘their data matters to the NHS’.”

Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “If you’re a patient, you want to know that – wherever you’re treated in the NHS – medical staff can access all the relevant health data about you. This is especially true for people with complex conditions. At the same time, patients want to know their data is stored safely and that they have choices about how it’s used for purposes beyond their direct care, like research. Together, the new GDPR rules and the national data opt-out will give patients that reassurance.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Patient data collected in general practice is an incredibly rich source of intelligence that can inform high-quality medical research, and help with planning NHS services, both of which can ultimately benefit patient care.

“But patients must be comfortable with their data being used in this way, and confident that it will be used appropriately. GPs and our teams take the use of patient data very seriously – we hope the National Data Opt-Out will reassure patients that their data is safe, and strengthen the unique GP-patient relationship.”

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Sharing data is vital so nurses and other healthcare professionals can develop efficient, targeted services, and provide patients with safe and effective care.

“But the public has a right to know their healthcare data is secure, and how it is being used. The RCN welcomes this campaign aimed at highlighting stronger public data protection, and giving people greater control and ownership of their personal information.”