The Department of Health’s information chief has told HSJ that her long awaited information strategy could yet be amended if the NHS Future Forum recommends a softer line on transparency to secure the support of clinicians.
Christine Connelly said that clinicians were signed up to the broad aim of making more data available to the public, as set out in the Information Revolution consultation document released in the autumn, but concerns remained about the approach.
She told HSJ: “There are absolutely challenges in different communities… what you hear from the GP community is that in principle ‘we understand this; however, we need to get some assurances that you won’t have gone too far and impinged on patient privacy’.”
Ms Connelly confirmed the information strategy has been held up by the listening exercise, and that any potential changes to the bill “could possibly have a knock-on effect to the information strategy work”.
She added: “As this is going on, anything could happen.”
Asked whether the transparency drive could be compromised to ensure clinicians bought into the changes, Ms Connelly said: “You could say that, but you could say anything like that while it’s up for grabs.”
The DH’s response to the consultation, which closed in January, is ready to be published, Ms Connelly said, although it will not be released until the end of the pause. The length of the delay in publishing the information strategy depends on the recommendations of the NHS Future Forum. Ms Connelly said if no changes were required the strategy was ready for release.
British Medical Association GPs committee deputy chair Richard Vautrey said the BMA was pushing for changes to the bill, which would check the DH’s move towards greater transparency.
He said: “The overarching concern is the sheer scale of information that could be made public from the health system, and the possible compromise of patient confidentiality.”