Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that the transformation agenda for NHS IT will only be worthwhile if it respects the relationship of trust between medical professionals and their patients.
Speaking at the Electronic Patient Records conference, Hunt said that while effective sharing of health information can improve patient care in the UK, all patients should be given a say over how their data is used. Any patient that does not want personal data held in their GP record to be shared with the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) will have their objection respected, he said.
Where personal data has already been shared from a GP practice to the HSCIC, a patient will still be able to have the identifiable information removed.
The HSCIC was set up on 1 April as part of the NHS Health and Social Care Act 2012 to provide data on the healthcare system and its IT infrastructure. The current government has big ideas for health sector IT.
In January Hunt said the NHS would be paperless by 2018, while the government also wants to give people the ability to access their health records held by their GP by 2015.
Hunt was speaking in response to the Caldicott Review on information governance in health and social care, which was published last week. Dame Fiona Caldicott was responsible for the review that focused on how the government should balance sharing and protecting patients' health and social care information.
"The Caldicott review has been about striking the right balance between sharing people's health and care information to improve services and develop new treatments while respecting the privacy and wishes of the patient," said Hunt.
"If patients are to see the benefits of these changes we must respect the wishes of the small number of people who would prefer not to share this information. I firmly believe that technology can transform the quality of healthcare in this country, but we must always respect the fact that this is very personal information about an individual."
Recently the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) played down any fears over the digital agenda being pursued by the NHS, claiming it was confident such plans could meet the necessary data protection legislation.
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