NHS denies it will 'sell' patient data to businesses

News 24 Sep, 2008

As the discussion about patient confidentiality rumbles on, the NHS denies reports that it is prepared to sell patient data to third parties without consent.

NHS Connecting for Health has firmly denied reports that it was prepared to ‘sell’ patient data to private companies.

The denial came following reports that the government was prepared to give businesses access to a massive database of millions of patients which would include details of diagnoses, operations and prescribed medicines.

It was claimed that this could a potential jackpot for companies who were looking for medical research data or to sell products back to the NHS.

The NHS said that there were very strict controls on the use of patient information and that anybody who wished to use identifiable patient data without consent would have to put their case to an independent body known as the Patient Information Advisory Group (PIAG).

A Connecting for Health spokesperson told The Sunday Telegraph that although data could be in theory used to trace individuals, researchers were more likely to examine records in batches of hundreds or thousands at a time.

Connecting for Health said in a statement: “The NHS has always used patient data for research and planning purposes.

"This data is crucial to run the NHS efficiently, to develop new treatments for serious illnesses, to help develop appropriate public health policies and to inform commissioning decisions."

It also said that the choice of whether the data should stay within the health service or go outside for research was a matter for public consultation, with the website accessible here.

The news comes as the NHS make big decisions on how doctors will be able to access Summary Care Records, as it overhauls much of its IT.

The government's information watchdog today warned consumers to keep a close watch on their own data.