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NHS England yet to finalise extraction launch date

Neil Merrett Published 12 June 2015

Pathfinder areas to begin patient consultations over next three months, although plans to start information transfer still dependent on data guardian's approval


NHS England has said no date has yet been finalised for when patient information will begin to be shared under the programme, with the scheme's key proposals still needing to be approved by Dame Fiona Caldicott, the UK's national data guardian.

The comments have been made as select clinical commissioning group (CCG) areas chosen to test and outline how authorities will rollout across England prepare to begin engagement with patients from late June over their rights under the programme.

However, the taking of individual patient data from GP records - potentially set to begin between September and November - will not happen until Dame Caldicott grants approval for the programme based around clarification on 27 questions she raised about privacy implications late last year.

The launch of, which aims to link up primary care and hospital information, was delayed from last year over criticisms of how authorities were explaining the implications to patients of how their details would be collected and shared between different organisations.

As part of the delayed launch, a select number of surgeries in the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) areas of Leeds, Somerset, West Hampshire and Blackburn with Darwen are preparing to pilot NHS England's programme as part of a 'pathfinder' phase.

Blackburn with Darwen has now said it will be in a position later this month to start what it calls fair processing - the time patients have to opt out to having their coded medical details held by GPs and hospitals stored with the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

According to the CCG, Somerset and West Hampshire are hoping to start the same process of testing communications around the programme at the beginning of September, with Leeds also expecting to commence work that month despite having yet to confirm its plans.

"Due to pre-election guidance that the CCG has had to adhere to, no communication with the public has taken place, and GPs have not been able to carry out any formal work on the programme," said an update posted on Blackburn with Darwen's website. "However, work has continued within the national programme team and with the four pathfinder areas on the review of patient facing materials - such as the Practice Toolkit."

According to a spokesperson for the CCG, the pathfinder stage is aimed to outline how best patients can be best informed of their rights to choose not to take part in the programme, with the final say on whether patient engagement will be sufficient taken by Dame Caldicott.

"Extraction is likely to take place between September and November depending on how fair processing testing communications was conducted. GP systems are currently undertaking the work required for extraction to take place," added the official update.

Back in February, Dame Caldicott said that no formal timetable was in place for when information may start to be transferred as part of the pathfinder trials.

Caldicott noted at the time that the launch of the trials depended on the Independent Information Governance Oversight Panel (IIGOP), which she chairs, receiving sufficient responses from health authorities to ensure the required levels of protection measures and information governance is in place. has continued to prove controversial with pressure groups and patient groups, which have raised concerns over the confidentiality implications of sharing highly personal data concerning medical and mental health histories.

British Medical Association (BMA) members have previously backed the notion of requiring patients to opt-in to share information under the programme. However, NHS England has remained committed to providing an opt-out system instead.

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Caldicott calls for clarification

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