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NHS axes care.data scheme

The controversial data-sharing scheme has been scrapped following a review

Doctor holding a clipboard

The NHS' divisive care.data programme has been scrapped, government officials have announced.

The closure was prompted by the findings of a review by national data guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott, into the use and security of patient data within the NHS.

"In light of Dame Fiona's recommendations, NHS England has taken the decision to close the care.data programme", said minister for life sciences, George Freeman.

The government's care.data programme was an initiative intended to improve the NHS and social services, by pooling and analysing the vast stores of patient data generated by the two bodies.

However, the scheme was dogged by criticism since its announcement in 2013 and more than a million people opted out of it during its brief trial run in 2015.

While the national data guardian's review wasn't specifically focused on the care.data programme, its recommendations were judged to be effectively incompatible with its current format.

The review found there was support for care.data's core principle - using patient data to improve the NHS - but that it was marred by a lack of public understanding and poor explanation of the scheme's functions.

Caldicott recommended that a new consent model be implemented to let patients opt-out of having their data used for anything beyond their direct care.

"The review goes further than the approach that was planned for care.data and its pathfinder areas," Freeman said.

Despite the failure of the care.data scheme, Freeman reinforced that the government and NHS England are still "absolutely committed" to making use of patient data.

"This work will now be taken forward by the National Information Board, in close collaboration with the primary care community in order to retain public confidence and to drive better care for patients," he said.

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