New patient database could undermine trust in NHS, risk analysis concludes

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 18 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1624
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

The centralisation of medical records in the national database has the potential to undermine trust among NHS patients in England, prompting them to withhold information from their clinicians and compromising their care, the NHS’s own risk analysis of the programme has concluded.

The system could also be vulnerable to hackers, the analysis says, because pseudonymised data available to “approved groups of users” such as care commissioners and health researchers could be combined with other datasets to “re-identify patients maliciously.”

Under the programme England’s Health and Social Care Information Centre will bring together health and social care from primary and secondary care for the first time. The centre will use patient identifiers, such as their NHS number, date of birth, postcode, and sex, to link data from different healthcare settings, and then these identifiers will be stripped out.

The centre will publish some anonymous or aggregated data itself, and pseudonymised data will be available to “approved groups of users,” including commissioners and researchers. Identifiable personal confidential data could …

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