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NHS England has delayed a national electronic medical records database amidst mounting pressure from patients and practitioners, moving the project implementation back six months

NHS England has delayed a national electronic medical records database amidst mounting pressure from patients and practitioners about data privacy and transparency, moving the project implementation back six months

NHS England has delayed a national electronic medical records database amidst mounting pressure from patients and practitioners, who claim citizens aren’t familiar enough with the project and the way private medical information will be handled.

NHS national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey said the health organisation will work with other stakeholders in the UK medical field to make the care.data project more transparent.

The care.data database was intended to improve health information sharing among practices in the UK and make fairly standard processes – like changing practices, or visiting specialists – more efficient.

The database was originally scheduled to go live in April 2014. But a decision was taken to delay its implementation until autumn 2014 due to GPs’ concerns that their patients are unaware of the implications of the scheme, which could see anonymised medical data sold to researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

NHS England national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey said: “NHS England exists for patients and we are determined to listen to what they tell us.”

“We have been told very clearly that patients need more time to learn about the benefits of sharing information and their right to object to their information being shared. That is why we are extending the public awareness campaign by an extra six months,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey declined to say how NHS England planned to change its tactics and improve the campaigns effectiveness, but he said the organisation will work with Royal College of GPs and the patient group Healthwatch on developing practical steps to promote public awareness of care.data and ensure the information is accessible by all.

The British Medical Association, which has backed care.data since its inception last year, has welcomed plans to delay implementation.

“It was clear from GPs on the ground that patients remained inadequately informed about the implications of care.data,” said BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul.

“While the BMA is supportive of using anonymised data to plan and improve the quality of NHS care for patients, this must only be done with the support and consent of the public, and it is only right that they fully understand what the proposals mean to them and what their rights are if they do not wish their data to be extracted,” Nagpaul added.

While EHR has become increasingly popular in the US, it hasn’t quite enjoyed the same level of uptake in the UK. And, some of these larger procurements have encountered some roadblocks to say the least. Last summer the Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust spent £28.5m on an EHR rollout that was intended to cost just under £10.5m.

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