Public Services > Healthcare

NHS England to launch standards testing within weeks

Neil Merrett Published 03 March 2015

Patient and information director Tim Kelsey confirms testing will soon commence to ensure project addresses concerns raised by national data guardian


NHS England expects over the next few weeks to begin the testing of standards required to address concerns that have delayed the launch of its controversial scheme. Meeting these standards is a mandatory requirement for NHS England in order to gain approval to launch as a limited pilot project in select parts of the UK.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England's national director for patients and information, said the outcome of these tests would be used by National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott to determine if the organisation has ensured extra legislative safeguards were in place to address concerns she previously raised over the programme.

"Dame Fiona will take a view, likely after the next election, on whether these standards have been achieved," he said, noting that the scope of meant the project could not be rushed.

In December, Dame Caldicott called for clarification on 27 questions relating to privacy and the wider scope of to address criticisms from pressure groups over the confidentiality implications of sharing highly personal data concerning medical and mental health histories.

Aimed to link up primary care and hospital information, the launch of the programme was delayed from last year due to criticisms of NHS England's attempts to explain the implications to patients of how their personal information would be collected and shared between different organisations.

On the back of the delay, Kelsey today claimed that the organisation had held "good conversations" with civil society organisations and other stakeholders over the last year in order to better explain to patients how their data would be used and help them balance potential care benefits with confidentiality concerns.

"Citizens should have the right to make a decision on how their data is shared. We completely agree with that. We want to make sure people are fully aware of their rights," he said.

Kelsey maintained that while NHS England could never offer a 100% guarantee to patients regarding the security of personal data, the organisation's staff "had to do our very best" in terms of safeguarding confidential information and health records.

Kelsey's comments were made at the start of the two-day UK e-Health Week conference being held in London, where he detailed the organisation's aims during 2015 to realise the concept of "NHS as a platform" in order to enable greater personal control over an individual's treatment.

The strategy aims to open up NHS England's existing infrastructure to third sector organisations and "entrepreneurs" through the provision of open application programme interfaces (APIs) such as GP software to allow development of applications to assist in more innovative healthcare.

"2015 is the year we deliver some of the most important digital changes that have ever happened in our health service," Kelsey said.

He added that there were three themes that encapsulated these changes, including a pledge to enable greater personal control over a patient's own care. In support of this pledge, Kelsey said NHS England was on track to meet its ambitions to provide patients across the UK with online access to their own GP records from next month.

"We're on track to meet the target of 95% of GP practices offering this service sooner than we thought," he said.

Kelsey added that NHS England was also this year set to launch a kitemarking scheme for the development of apps, that would be provided through a curated online service that can support more personalised care.

The other key themes of the proposed digital changes are expected to include the introduction of a digital "red book", aiming to give mothers more personalised mobile care records, as well as reforms to how patients outlined their preferred options for end-of life treatment.

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