NHS England and the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) today set out the next steps to raise public awareness about care.data – a programme that will use information to improve the safety and care of patients.
They have announced that throughout January 2014, all 22 million households in England will receive a leaflet explaining how the new system will work and the benefits it will bring.
What is the care.data programme?
Care.data is a modern information system that is being developed, which will make increased use of information from medical records with the intention of improving health services.
It is important that the NHS can use this information to get a complete picture of what is happening across health and social care and to plan services according to what works best.
The new system will provide joined-up information about the care received from all of the different parts of the health service, including hospitals and GP practices.
What sort of data is being collected?
Your date of birth, full postcode, NHS Number and gender rather than your name will be used to link your records in a secure system, managed by the HSCIC. Once this information has been linked a new record will be created. This new record will not contain information that identifies you. The type of information shared, and how it is shared, is controlled by law and strict confidentiality rules.
What will the data be used for?
The new system will also provide information that will enable the public to hold the NHS to account and ensure that any unacceptable standards of care are identified as quickly as possible. Information will help to:
- find more effective ways of preventing, treating and managing illnesses
- guide local decisions about changes that are needed to respond to the needs of local patients
- support public health by anticipating risks of particular diseases and conditions, and help us to take action to prevent problems
- improve the public’s understanding of the outcomes of care, giving them confidence in health and care services
- guide decisions about how to manage NHS resources so that they can best support the treatment and management of illness for the benefit of patients
If you are happy for your information to be used then you do not need to do anything. But if you have concerns you should talk to your GP.
The information gathered by the programme can be used by NHS organisations to plan and design services better, using the best available evidence of which treatments and services have the greatest impact on improving patients’ health.
So ultimately, sharing your information will benefit you.
Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s Director of Patients and Information, said: “I believe the NHS will make major advances in quality and patient safety through the use of this data. At the moment, the NHS often doesn’t have the complete picture as information lies in different parts of the health services and isn’t joined up. This programme will give NHS commissioners a more complete picture of the safety and quality of services in their local area, which will lead to improvements to patient outcomes… But we know not everyone will feel comfortable and we want to make sure they know they have the right to say ‘no’. Patient confidentiality is non-negotiable.”