Cyber-security and safe data sharing both imperative for NHS patient care, says RCGP

Publication date: 12 July 2017

Responding to the Government's announcement on data cyber-security today, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"Robust cyber-security and effective, safe data sharing between healthcare professionals are both imperative to ensure our patients receive the best possible care right across the NHS.

"The cyber-attack in April was a wake-up call to many of us working in the health service about the fragility of the IT systems we are using, not just to keep our patients' data safe, but to keep our surgeries functioning. Dame Fiona Caldicott put forward some excellent recommendations, including more investment and the need for suitable alert systems, in her report earlier this year, and we are encouraged that the Department of Health plans to adopt these standards in full – and has already done so in some cases.

"We also welcome a phased approach to introducing a transparent national opt-out scheme for data and information sharing. Sharing of patient data between healthcare professionals can result in higher quality, faster and more integrated care. There are also significant benefits, particularly for medical research, to sharing properly anonymised patient data on a large scale, with approved research bodies.

"What is essential is that the NHS is beyond reproach when it comes to the use of patient data for any purpose, that patients have trust in the way their data is being used, and that they are confident it will be kept secure. We still need to do more to get the message across to patients about the great potential benefits of data-sharing, and reassure them that their data really will be secure, and used responsibly for the benefit of everyone's health.

"It is also important that the training and resources which will be necessary for healthcare professionals to properly and effectively implement any changes to the way we work in order to make the vision outlined in this report a reality is fully-funded.

"GPs are some of the most trusted healthcare professionals in the NHS, and this trust must extend to the way in which we use information about our patients' health – we are confident that the plans in this report, if implemented effectively, will be a positive step forward to ensuring this."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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