The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership

Opt out

The timing of the news that 150,000 NHS patients have had their personal health details shared for years against their will could not be much worse.

It is barely a month since the new national data opt-out was launched, part of a safe new era of securely sharing NHS patient data to the benefit of all the government is fiercely promoting.

This vision has already taken a few knocks.

In early May, the government agreed to partially scrap an agreement that allowed NHS Digital to share patients’ confidential details with the Home Office to pursue low level immigration offences amid significant criticism.

Then there was NHS Digital’s 11th hour panic on 24 May that much of the patient data they were sharing was not GDPR compliant and should be suspended (in the end they decided to resume sharing within hours).

In the most recent case, since March 2015, each of these 150,000 patients had asked their GP not to share their information with anyone beyond people involved in their direct care.

Due to error in the GP IT system, supplied by TTP, this preference was never passed on to NHS Digital, both the central “safe haven” and central distributor for NHS patient data.

This has meant the confidential information was shared with hundreds of organisations against their will, including some private companies.

Both NHS Digital and TPP have apologised for the fault, which they say has now been fixed. That was only after the error persisted for years and was only uncovered when TPP upgraded their coding system, though.

Without this update, it is not clear when, if ever, the mass sharing of patient data in contravention of their wishes would have been detected.

Calls for the end of CQUIN

Bodies representing commissioners and providers came together this week to call for the end of a the main pay for performance mechanism in NHS contracts.

NHS Providers and NHS Clinical Commissioners said the “commissioning for quality and innovation” scheme should be scrapped as systems moved to a more collaborative system from 2019-20.

CQUINs have been in place for nearly 10 years, and make part of a providers’ income conditional on demonstrating improvements in specified areas of patient care. They control more than £1bn nationally.

Julie Wood, chief executive of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: “Whilst CQUIN was established with good intentions, for trusts it is seen as core income and for commissioners, therefore, has not always achieved the service change that has been sought. [It] risks creating a set of processes with little added value. We, therefore, support a review of CQUIN and are keen to be part of that important conversation.”

But NHS England said while it would listen to the case against the payment it currently had no plans to scrap or amend the system.