NHS data chiefs have raised “concerns in respect to the governance arrangements” of the pioneering care.data project, according to papers published last week. 

The news comes at a critical time for NHS England as it attempts to finalise the business plan for the project, which involves the extraction and linking of patient identifiable data from patients’ records, which it estimates will cost “over £50m”.

Health and Social Care Information Centre board papers said the body’s chair, Kingsley Manning, would write to the Department of Health to outline the concerns.

An action plan from the information centre’s December meeting included in the document said: “The chair noted that the board had some concerns in respect to the governance arrangements for the [care.data] programme.

“The chair took an action to write to the Department of Health sponsor, he would copy this letter to [Sir] Malcolm Grant, the chair of NHS England’s board.” 

However, a spokeswoman for the information centre told HSJ no such letter had been sent and a “request for a further discussion” had been made instead.

She refused to comment on the details of the governance concerns.

Under the project, patient identifiable data will be extracted from patients’ GP records and then linked with patients’ hospital data by the information centre.

NHS England wants to create a dataset stretching over the whole patient care pathway which will be made available to clinicians, commissioners and researchers.

The information centre will begin to extract data from patients’ GP records from March.

The Informatics Services Commissioning Group, a board of senior informatics figures from NHS England and its arm’s length bodies, is due to discuss a business case for the project at its board meeting this week.  

The paper said: “The strategic outline case for care.data has been developed, reviewed by NHS England programme team colleagues and is now in the assurance approvals process, currently with HSCIC subject matter experts (SMEs) for their review and comment.

“It will be updated and distributed to programme board members for review (mid Jan) and to wider SMEs (e.g. DH finance) for endorsement and will go to the HSCIC corporate assurance panel and then on to the ISCG for their approval, before going to Treasury for approval (cost over £50m).”