A national system to gather primary care clinical data is set for a September 2012 go-live date, HSJ has learned.

The NHS Information Centre has confirmed that the GP Extraction Service, which will bring together clinical information from primary care providers, will be “providing a service” from September 2012.

The system will involve administrative data already collected and stored by GPs, including data on diagnoses and prescriptions. The information will be standardised so it can be joined up nationally, and compared with data sets from other parts of the health services.

The Department of Health has held meetings in recent weeks with chief information officers and GPs briefing them on the plans, which have been in the works for three years.

However, HSJ has heard that work is still going on to finalise the proposals, to take into account changes to the Health Bill following the NHS Future Forum’s listening exercise and report.

The department intends GPES to enable the collection of anonymised patient information for reasons other than direct clinical care. The data is used for purposes including healthcare planning, commissioning, public health and developing national policy. It will differ from the Secondary Uses Service, currently used for the acute sector, in that there will be no central data warehouse. Instead information will be collected by the Information Centre, passed onto the agency which requested it - typically the NHS Commissioning Board - and deleted.

HSJ has been told that the DH hopes the data can be used to drive up quality in primary care, and tackle some of the variation in performance between providers.

Dr Paul Cundy, vice chair of the British Medical Association’s GP IT committee, said: “The principle is a good idea.”

He said the BMA wanted to secure an opt-out for practices, enabling them to control which data requests chose to respond to.

“Those are the basic principles we’ve agreed – we hope that’s what they’re working to.”

He added that if those principles are agreed to, there would be “universal” sign-up among GPs.

GPES was first suggested in 2008, and was backed by ministers in late 2010 following a cross-government review of IT projects. The NHS Information Centre said it would fulfil “immediate” needs in the NHS.

A formal announcement is expected today.