22 June 2021 — Dr. Bhatti.com
GPs are raising the alarm about plans to make 55 million NHS patients’ data available to corporations for profit. A group of GPs in East London are taking action to withhold the data and protect the privacy of their patients by refusing to share data from their Practice. They’re encouraging medical practitioners throughout England to join them through an open letter.
The Guardian reported earlier this month on this new NHS Digital initiative to centralise medical records in a database, flagging that not enough information or time has been given for patients to understand the move or opt out. Just six weeks was given between the announcement of the plan to the start of peoples’ data being shared (though the deadline has since been extended from 1st July to 1st September).
Medact member and GP Dr Ameen Kamlana wrote in the Guardian, explaining why all 36 doctors’ surgeries in Tower Hamlets have come together and agreed to withhold the data when collection begins:
“What this means in practice is that all your GP interactions, starting from the time you were born (and including many of the most intimate details of your life) are at risk of being indirectly sold to corporations.”
“Personal health data should be used in an informed manner and in the public interest, not exploited for corporate profits. It is precisely with this in mind that GPs like me are refusing to comply with this programme.”
Dr Osman Bhatti, the chief clinical information officer for the NHS North East London clinical commissioning group, co-signed the open letter to GPs to highlight the concerns and encourage practices to withhold the data until patients have been adequately informed. The letter also makes it clear that while refusal to share the data would technically be a breach of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, there are no sanctions or penalties for doing so.
Please share this letter with your colleagues, so that GPs and patients across England can make the right choices about what happens to their personal data.
Respecting the privacy of patient’s data is essential, both to ensure that people feel safe to access the care that they need in confidence, and to ensure that their human rights are upheld. We know that when the NHS shares patient data it undermines public trust in our health system and ultimately stops people seeking the care they need. This is no surprise when data shared with the Home Office as a result of Hostile Environment immigration policies is used to find, detain, and deport people – or, as with this new agreement, it’s used to generate profit for private companies.
This is our data and it should be used safely and securely for our NHS, to improve the quality and availability of care for all, not sold off by the back door for the benefit of private companies. That is why we’re encouraging you to stand with the GPs in Tower Hamlets, and around the country, and oppose this new data-sharing deal.
Campaign and Programme Lead: Health & Human Rights