A government project to share more widely information held by family doctors (GPs) in England has been shelved for the time being, partly due to privacy concerns.

More than a million people opted out of the General Practice Data for Planning and Research scheme in June in what is regarded as a backlash against plans to make patient data available to private companies.

Set to launch in September, the project is now on hold with no new date for implementation.

The idea behind it is for health data GPs hold on their patients be made available to researchers and companies for healthcare research and planning. 

Though individuals’ identities would be partially removed, privacy campaigners argue that policy could be reversed.

“People do care about their GP records and their medical confidentiality,” said Phil Booth, coordinator of campaign group medConfidential, was quoted as saying in the Observer newspaper.

Scheme promotor NHS Digital says it will soon start a listening exercise and consultation before launching a public information campaign.

It will also allow patients to opt out at any stage, and have their data deleted even if it has already been uploaded. NHS Digital is also pledging to increase the security and privacy of the data.

“We take our responsibility to safeguard data very seriously, and it will only ever be used by organisations that have a legal basis and legitimate need to use it for the benefit of health and care planning and research,” a spokesperson said.


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