PLANS to sell confidential patient data to private firms for just £1 have been blasted by health campaigners.

Until now, companies and researchers have had to stump up between £20,000 and £30,000 to access de-personalised GP records, but NHS England wants to radically reduce costs, in a bid to ‘identify improvements and efficiencies’.

Although the data would be anonymous, campaigners said the more people who have access to sensitive data, the greater the risk that it will not be protected properly.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group said: “This is absolutely appalling and affects each and every one of us. I agree with limited data sharing between healthcare providers to enable them to provide safe and effective care – but only the front end of patient records which show things like medications and allergies.”

Mr McLean fears that health insurers and mortgage providers could use the records to push up costs in certain communities, as with car insurance premiums in the BB postcode area, or even block individual customers.

Campaign groups Liberty and medConfidential have also criticised the move, calling it an ‘unprecedented threat to our medical confidentiality’.

Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, King’s College London, as well as private companies Bupa, Dr Foster, Corin Ltd and Civil Eyes research have so far been granted permission to buy the data at the nominal price.

Geraint Lewis, chief data officer at NHS England said: “We want to ensure that patients, clinicians and staff who plan health services have access to the best possible information to help them improve health outcomes for patients.

“NHS England wishes to reduce the fees to £1 in order to encourage a wider range of accredited organisations, including charitable organisations, to analyse the data.

“However, we are keeping the nominal fee in place in order to ensure that all such organisations are held accountable for how they use the data, by means of a legally-enforceable contract.

“Such requests will be approved on an individual basis and will still be subject to the highest standards of information governance and all applicable privacy legislation.”