Leaflets explaining how the NHS uses patient information will begin landing on the doormats of England’s 26.5 million households from today.
Over the next four weeks, every household in England will receive “Better Information Means Better Care”, a leaflet explaining the benefits of sharing information about the care they have received. Sharing information helps ensure that the quality and safety of services is consistent across the country and can also highlight different diseases and conditions that may require more NHS investment.
Households in the North of England will receive their leaflets this week, with the rest of England to follow during January, as announced in October.
As explained in the leaflet, patients have the right to object to their data being used for purposes other than their direct care. If patients wish to restrict their data being used then they should talk to their GP.
An information line has been set up for patients to call if they have any questions or concerns about how their data are used. The number is 0300 456 3531.
One of the great strengths of the NHS is that we treat millions of patients every week. Modern data techniques allow us to analyse the characteristics of all those patients, their treatments, and experiences to help us improve the quality of care for all. Using this combined information, we can now obtain low-cost answers to questions about the quality of care that would have been difficult or impossible to answer only a few years ago.
Dr Imran Rafi, Chair of the Clinical Innovation and Research Centre at the Royal College of General Practitioners said: “I fully support this initiative. GPs understand the importance of sharing information appropriately both as part of delivering clinical care and for wider uses, such as research and for planning NHS services. It is important that patients understand how the NHS uses and shares their information, and that they feel they have been given a proper choice to participate. The spin-off is the potential for all NHS patients to benefit.
Dr Mark Davies, Medical Director at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, said: “The Health and Social Care Information Centre was set up as the legal ‘safe haven’ for protecting and managing patient information. We want everyone to feel confident that their information is kept private and used in non-identifiable form to improve the quality of health and social care for everyone. Equally important is that everyone knows that they have a choice and can raise an objection by simply talking to their GP.”
Dr Geraint Lewis, Chief Data Officer at NHS England, said: “The NHS has been collecting information like this from hospitals for decades but until now we’ve been missing information about the quality of care provided outside hospital. This initiative is about upgrading our information systems to get a more complete picture of the quality of care being delivered across all parts of the NHS and social care."