trial date in doubt

Doctor NHS

The NHS's scheme could be hit with more delays after a report raised fresh concerns over its delivery timeline.

The scheme, designed to share patients' medical records, was originally meant to be rolled out in April this year, but was delayed by six months in February due to a lack of proper consultation.

It has now emerged a date for a shortlist of potential surgeries to trial the scheme before implementation may not be released until sometime in the new year.

NHS England, which is leading the project, announced four areas for the pilot programme back in October - Leeds North, West, South and East, Somerset, West Hampshire and Blackburn with Darwen - but there is no word yet on a date for the shortlist.

But it yesterday admitted it will not even have finished signing up GPs for those trials until the new year has started.

Meanwhile, a new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care and the Patients Association this week found that significant doubts remain over the scheme's timeline, despite finding support for its aims.

The report, entitled Inquiry, found: "Patients and the public are broadly supportive of the principle of using health data for research that is in the public interest. However, many people still have deep concerns about the programme and are worried about how their personal data will be used."

It added: "There has been a lack of clarity and publicity around the programme, how the data will be used, who the data will be used by, and what implications it has for end of life care."

The Patients Association added there must be "robust" safeguards built into the IT systems to prevent unauthorised access to the data.

The cross-party group also cited the need for an open consultation on what data would be collected, the importance of being able to opt out and recommended penalties for the misuse of data.

The Parliamentary Group will meet with NHS England in 2015 to get a progress report, if updates do not come sooner.