The contract of an Oxford GP, who is responsible for a number of colleges, has been threatened by the NHS after he refused to co-operate with new data-sharing regulations.
Dr Gordon Gancz, who runs a surgery on King Edward street and is the college GP for Lincoln, Oriel, St. Catz, and Corpus Christi colleges, had objected to a new policy concerning patient data. According to the new scheme, all patient data is automatically shared on a central database and “patients will automatically be included unless they indicate to their practice that they wish to opt out”.
Dr Gancz, however, felt this contravened his patients’ right to privacy and consequently wrote on his website, “This practice takes its duties to safeguard patient confidentiality extremely seriously and so we have decided to assume (even though doing so may turn out to be illegal) that all of our patients wish to opt-out of this data extraction, until such time as you inform us that you wish to allow your data to be used in this way.”
The NHS responded with a letter saying, “We wish to discuss the remediation needed because you have published on your practice website information about the care data extraction indicating that you intend opting your patients out of the data extraction unless they contact you to opt in. This is contrary to NHS England’s requirement that patients will automatically be included unless they indicate to their practice that they wish to opt out.”
The letter went on to state that so long as the information remained on the website, he was in breach of his contract.
Dr Gancz has responded angrily to the “bullying” used by the NHS, telling Pulse magazine that the letter showed a “disregard for patients’ interests”. He went on to doubt the tenability of the NHS position, saying, “It will be interesting to see what power they have, if any, to stop one simply stating what is the case. People are being bulldozed into giving consent by default – that is on my website and it’s nothing but the truth – how can they tell me to take it off?”
Dr Gancz has also made specific reference to the impact that the changes will have on Oxford students, commenting, “How many of those students who have passed through Oxford University in the past would like details of their private lives made available to others? Exactly the same applies to every patient in the country.”
The NHS has responded by asserting that they wanted patients to understand the importance of the consequences of the data sharing changes. A spokeswoman told The Telegraph, “If a patient wishes to object to their information being used for purposes beyond their direct care they must do so autonomously, based on balanced, accurate information about how and why their information will be used,” she said. “It is not right for GP practices to make this decision on their patients’ behalf.
“Before today, we agreed with the BMA and RCGP that we would work with them to review cases of abnormal numbers of patient objections. However, this review will take place once extractions begin, not before.”