A CONTROVERSIAL plan to upload millions of patient records to a central NHS database will be piloted in Blackburn with Darwen.

The borough has been chosen as one of four ‘pathfinder’ areas for the Care.data project, in which the Health and Social Care Information Centre will collect anonymised medical records held by GP practices.


Practices taking part have not yet been confirmed NHS bosses said the data would help health commissioners study issues such as diagnosis, waiting times and patterns of illness or disease, but fears have been raised by privacy campaigners that some patients may be identifiable from the data.

They say the information could fall into the hands of hackers or insurance companies who will use it to increase premiums for patients with certain conditions.

The scheme was due to be rolled out nationally in February, but was delayed due to concerns that few patients were aware of their right to opt out.

The pilot will also be launched in Leeds, Somerset and West Hampshire. Before any data is collected, letters will be sent to explain the scheme and offer them the chance to opt out.

Tim Kelsey, director for patients and information at NHS England, said: “We have heard, loud and clear, that we need to be clearer about the care.data programme and that we need to provide more support to GPs to communicate the benefits and the risks of data sharing with their patients, including their right to opt out.”

NHS England also insisted that ‘at no time will anyone’s name or full address or notes of conversations with their GPs be collected’.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has argued the project should be ‘opt in’, and the union’s Lancashire representative, Dr David Wrigley, said: “It has always been a concern for the BMA that patient identifiable data could leak out of this system and be used for purposes other than direct NHS care.

“These pilots need very careful monitoring and it is vital that NHS England takes note of the concerns of the BMA about appropriate usage of patient data. ”