• IT systems will be contractually required to feed into new patient data scheme
  • Suppliers that fail to do so will potentially have access to the NHS restricted
  • NHS England says new data scheme will be for improving care, not sharing data with third parties

Providers supplying IT services to the NHS will have their access to the health service curtailed if they do not agree to feed patient records into a new data sharing scheme.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s director of operations and information, told HSJ today that trusts funded to become “global digital exemplars” will have to share patient information with new regional data hubs, which will feed into a national system.

Matthew Swindells

Source: Neil O’Connor

Matthew Swindells said GP IT system suppliers will be required to share patient data with the hubs

Any IT system suppliers that fail share this information could be cut from the exemplar programme, which is linked to central funding.

Mr Swindells said: “All these vendors that are identified with GDEs will be expected, when the hubs get going, to be able to flow data through, and if they can’t it will throw into doubt their position as a GDE vendor.”

The requirements could eventually impact all providers, which are expected to become digital exemplars or copy the IT systems of an existing exemplar trust.

Mr Swindells said GP IT system suppliers will also be contractually required to share patient information with the hubs, when their national contracts with the NHS are renegotiated next year.

At the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester last month, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens confirmed the commissioning body would pursue a new national patient data sharing scheme based around data hubs covering 3-5 million people.

These hubs would feed into a national repository of patient level data linked from many sources.

The model is based on recommendations in the life sciences industry strategy, which emphasises the huge commercial potential if NHS patient data quality could be improved and collected at scale.

NHS England and supporters of the scheme have said this data would initially be used strictly for improving care within the NHS, with patients given control over how much data is released beyond direct care. They argue having “a single source of truth” for population and patient health has enormous potential to improve care and patient experience.

However, critics have described the plans as the successor to Care.data – the disastrous patient data sharing project that closed in 2016 after persistent concerns that patient identifiable data would be sold outside the NHS without consent.

Mr Swindells said there would need to be a robust conversation with the public before NHS England would consider sharing the new data repositories for other uses.

He said: “When [patients] start to get uncomfortable is: ‘Are you reselling my data to the private sector?’ We are not going to do that. That’s not going to be part of where we are for the first phase of this project.

“There is a whole set of processes… that we need to make sure are in place before we start using that data for third party purposes.”

NHS England is consulting with the NHS and suppliers on what standards the new data collection scheme will need to meet.

Health economies should be invited to become the first of the hubs, which are expected to act as “exemplars” for data sharing in the NHS, by the end of the year.