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Controversial NHS Data Sharing Project has Now Been Scrapped

01 August, 2016

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A data sharing project proposed by The Department of Health in England has been officially scrapped. The programme known as Care.data was meant to launch two years ago in 2014, but plans were put on hold after public concern and now the programme has been closed.

The Care.data project has been led by NHS England in cooperation with the Health and Social Care Information Centre. As a data sharing scheme, it was designed to bring together information from different settings, to analyse what was working well and what needed to be improved.

Why has it been cancelled?

The programme was put on hold in 2014, just before it was due to launch. The project was paused because the public information campaign which informed patients about its use was not clear enough and did not reach everyone. Two years on, the decision has been made to scrap it completely.

This surprise announcement came at the same time as the results of two reviews into data security in healthcare. The two reviews, undertaken by the Care Quality Commission and Dame Fiona Caldicott make suggestions for security standards which NHS organisations should meet. These include out of date software and hardware being replaced immediately and an opt-out system for patients who do not want their personal health data used outside their care. The reviews also call for tougher criminal sanctions for intentional data breaches.

Public Concern

It seems that if a company – or a government organisation – informs the public that their personal data may be used for a range of purposes, there is a general feeling of uneasiness. At some level this is natural, as most of us don’t want our personal details to be accessed by just anyone. However, many people don’t understand that sharing this data, in a careful and controlled way, can be helpful in improving services.

Data is the future, and sharing certain types of data with other companies can open a world of possibilities. However, it’s easy to be apprehensive after hearing of so many organisations becoming victims of data breaches. Data centre security needs to be tight where any data sharing projects are involved, as of course all personal data should be kept secure at all times by companies holding it. Here it seems like public concern has blocked a programme which could have resulted in better service for everybody. The reputation of companies and organisations in regards to holding data needs to be improved in the public interest.

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