NHS England has chosen six clinical commissioning groups for the next phase of its controversial Care.data patient record sharing initiative.

GP practices within the CCGs of Somerset; West Hampshire; Blackburn with Darwen; Leeds North; Leeds South and East; and Leeds West will be expected to take part in the “pathfinder” stage of the programme.

At this stage, participating practices will test various means of informing patients of their rights in relation to the record sharing regime.

Such methods could include the use of emails, letters or text messages.

Care.data will extract and link data from patients’ GP records with their hospital records, and eventually across other care sectors.

It aims to put together complete patient records across their whole care pathway.

NHS England said it would announce how many of the 265 GP practices across the six CCGs will be adopted as pathfinders “in due course”.

Eve Roodhouse, programme director of Care.data at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, said it would track approaches used by participating practices during the pilot stage.

She expected the six CCGs to take different approaches to getting GP practices on board with the pilot, she added.

“The process of agreeing with GP practices is one which will now begin,” she said.

Ms Roodhouse added that no GP practice would be forced to be involved. “It is our preference to have as many GP practices across the pathfinder areas.”

The announcement comes after the Information Commissioner’s Office said GP practices that decided against extracting patients’ data to the information centre as part of Care.data would not breach the Data Protection Act.

Dawn Monaghan, group manager of public services at the ICO, told HSJ: “Nothing in the [act] stops them doing that, providing that they have been fair in telling their patients that they’re doing it, why they’re doing it, and giving their patients the opportunity to opt in.”