The flagship patient data service, care.data, will be able to “link” data from patients’ GP records to their hospital records by June next year, NHS England has announced.

Linking up the data across different care settings will allow the NHS to have “a full picture of all the care that is going on across England” and facilitate smarter commissioning and improve patient outcomes, NHS England said.

Patient data from other care settings, such as community and social care, will be incorporated in the future but the first iteration will see GP records linked with hospital episode statistics data.

NHS England revealed last month it had pushed back its timetable to begin extracting patient data from GP records, a move which has sparked concern among privacy campaigners. This will now take place in March 2014 instead of this autumn, as it had previous stated.

The delay followed GPs complaining they had not been given enough time to inform patients and offer them the opportunity to opt out if they wish. NHS England has also agreed to run a national awareness campaign in the new year,

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, said: “Sharing and linking information from all the different places where care is received such as GP surgeries, hospitals and community services will help the NHS to have a full picture of all the care that is going on across England.

“This will help the NHS and the life sciences sector to see what care and treatments have worked best and will lead to improvements in the health service for everyone.”

Mr Kelsey said the “unprecedented new anonymised data service” would be “secure so a patient’s identity will be protected” and that “patients’ rights to confidentiality will be safeguarded and respected,”  – a concern raised by GPs and privacy campaigners.

The news came as part of a suit of transparency-related announcements are being made today at the Open Government Partnership annual summit which promotes international demand for openness in public office.

Other announcements include:  

  • Publishing more clinician level data - Building on the publication of surgeon level data from national clinical audits across 10 specialties earlier this year, NHS England will extend the programme to new treatments and conditions over the course of 2014. This will include data from non-surgical physicians.
  • Publishing more overarching clinical indicators - For 10 new clinical areas including cancer, children’s services, mental health and stroke, data will be made available to tell the public how well services are performing and meeting their needs; the first of these will be available by summer 2014 with more available over the following 12 months.