Thousands of Mansfield and Ashfield patients opt out of sharing medical records

Thousands of people in Mansfield and Ashfield have opted out of sharing their medical records, figures show.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 11:00 am

The sharing of patient data is ‘vital’ to research into life-changing illnesses including cancer, diabetes and long Covid and has been pivotal in developing responses to the coronavirus pandemic, according to NHS Digital.

But its figures show 4,097 people in Mansfield, as well as 3,463 in Ashfield and 6,898 in Newark & Sherwood, had signed up to the national data opt-out scheme by September 1.

The scheme allows patients to prevent confidential information held by NHS Digital from being used for purposes other than their care and treatment.

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There has been a steep rise in the number of Mansfield patients choosing not to share their data via the national opt-out scheme in recent months.

It is different from another 'type 1' opt-out scheme, which prevents NHS Digital from collecting information from GP records.

The NHS said patient data can be used for research and, throughout the pandemic, has been used to develop the shielded patient list and to identify which treatments would be most effective for Covid-19 patients.

However, there has been a steep rise in the number of patients choosing not to share their data in recent months.

NHS Digital figures show 1,757 patients in Mansfield area signed up to the opt-out scheme from May-September 2021 alone, 43 per cent of the total, alongside 2,213 in Ashfield, 64 per cent of the total, and 2,001 in Newark & Sherwood, 29 per cent of the total.

They were among more than a million people to do so across England over the same period, meaning more than three million patients have now opted out.

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A stark rise in sign-ups to the scheme came after campaigners and groups, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, expressed concern over proposals to introduce a new data collection process in England.

Prof Martin Marshall, college chairman, said data sharing for healthcare planning and research has been ‘vital’ during the pandemic, but patients need to be sure they understand how their data will be used.

A NHS Digital spokeswoman said medical research and planning benefits everyone, but is ‘only as good as the data it is based on’ as she urged patients to ensure they are making an informed decision about whether to share records.

She said data would only ever be used by organisations with a legitimate need to access it.

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