The controversial planned mass extraction of patient data from GP records will be delayed from July to September, the Government has announced. Patients will also be given a longer window to opt out of the extraction, than the previously planned 23 June deadline. The General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR), which will replace replace the GP Extraction Service (GPES), had been due to launch on 1 July.
Health minister Jo Churchill today told the House of Commons that the Government has ‘decided we will proceed with the important programme, but we will take some extra time, as we have conversed with stakeholders in the past couple of days’. She said that this comes as ‘patient data is of course owned by the patient’ and the Government is ‘absolutely determined to take people with us on this journey’. She said: ‘The implementation date will now be on 1 September and we will use this time to talk to patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan, build a trusted research environment and ensure data is accessed securely.’ But she said: ‘Data saves lives. It’s as simple as that. We’ve seen that in the pandemic, it’s one of the lessons of the vaccine rollout. The GP data programme will strengthen this system and save lives.’
Later in the session, health secretary Matt Hancock also confirmed that patients would be given longer to opt out of the data extraction. He said: ‘The minister set out that we will delay the deadline on this programme, including the opt-out which is currently scheduled to end on the 23 June.’
He added: ‘I think everybody agrees that data saves lives. We have to make progress in this area, it is very, very important, but we have to do it in a way that brings people with us.’
NHS Digital chair Simon Bolton added that it takes its ‘responsibility to safeguard the data we hold incredibly seriously’. ‘We intend to use the next two months to speak with patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan even further,’ he added.
The BMA last week called for a delay to the launch of the programme, on which it has been advising the Government. The RCGP, which has also advised the Government, had also raised concerns about patients being insufficiently informed of the programme.