Your Data Matters

Your Data Matters

The data held in the GP medical records of patients is used every day to support health and care planning and research in England, helping to find better treatments and improve patient outcomes for everyone. NHS Digital has developed a new way to collect this data, called the General Practice Data for Planning and Research data collection.

NHS Digital is the national custodian for health and care data in England and has responsibility for standardising, collecting, analysing, publishing and sharing data and information from across the health and social care system, including general practice.

NHS Digital collected patient data from general practices using a service called the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES), which has operated for over 10 years and now needs to be replaced.

NHS Digital has engaged with doctors, patients, data and governance experts to design a new approach to collect data from general practice that:

  • reduces burden on GP practices
  • explains clearly how data is used 
  • supports processes that manage and enable lawful access to patient data to improve health and social care

What the data will be used for

Patient data collected from general practice is needed to support a wide variety of research and analysis to help run and improve health and care services. Whilst the data collected in other care settings such as hospitals is valuable in understanding and improving specific services, it is the patient data in general practice that helps us to understand whether the health and care system as a whole is working for patients.

In addition to replacing what GPES already does, the General Practice Data for Planning and Research service will also help to support the planning and commissioning of health and care services, the development of health and care policy, public health monitoring and interventions (including coronavirus (COVID-19) and enable many different areas of research.

What data is shared

This data will be shared from 1 September 2021. Data may be shared from the GP medical records about:

  • any living patient registered at a GP practice in England when the collection started – this includes children and adults
  • any patient who died after 1 September 2021, and was previously registered at a GP practice in England when the data collection started

NHS Digital will not collect patients’ names or addresses. Any other data that could directly identify patients (such as NHS Number, date of birth, full postcode) is replaced with unique codes which are produced by de-identification software before the data is shared with NHS Digital.

This process is called pseudonymisation and means that patients will not be identified directly in the data. NHS Digital will be able to use the software to convert the unique codes back to data that could directly identify patients in certain circumstances, and where there is a valid legal reason.

NHS Digital will collect:

  • data about diagnoses, symptoms, observations, test results, medications, allergies, immunisations, referrals, recalls and appointments, including information about physical, mental and sexual health
  • data on sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation
  • data about staff who have treated patients

NHS Digital does not collect:

  • name and address (except for postcode, protected in a unique coded form)
  • written notes (free text), such as the details of conversations with doctors and nurses
  • images, letters and documents  
  • coded data that is not needed due to its age – for example medication, referral and appointment data that is over 10 years old
  • coded data that GPs are not permitted to share by law – for example certain codes about IVF treatment, and certain information about gender re-assignment

Opting out

If you don’t want your identifiable patient data to be shared for purposes except for your own care, you can opt-out by registering a Type 1 Opt-out or a National Data Opt-out, or both. These opt-outs are different and your individual care will not be affected if you opt-out using either option.

Type 1 Opt-out (opting out of NHS Digital collecting your data)

If you do not want your patient data shared with NHS Digital, you can register a Type 1 Opt-out with your GP practice. You can register a Type 1 Opt-out at any time. You can also change your mind at any time and withdraw a Type 1 Opt-out.

Data sharing with NHS Digital will start on 1 September 2021.

If you have already registered a Type 1 Opt-out with your GP practice your data will not be shared with NHS Digital.

If you wish to register a Type 1 Opt-out with your GP practice before data sharing starts with NHS Digital, this should be done by returning this form to your GP practice. If you have previously registered a Type 1 Opt-out and you would like to withdraw this, you can also use the form to do this. You can send the form by post or email to your GP practice or call 0300 3035678 for a form to be sent out to you.

National Data Opt-out (opting out of NHS Digital sharing your data)

If you do not want NHS Digital to share your identifiable patient data with anyone else for purposes beyond your own care, then you can also register a National Data Opt-out.

You can find out more about and register a National Data Opt-out or change your choice on nhs.uk/your-nhs-data-matters or by calling 0300 3035678.

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