NHS Patient Data

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:16 pm on 25th March 2014.

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Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 4:16 pm, 25th March 2014

No. I have listened to the same speech from the hon. Gentleman as did my right hon. Friend Mr Burns. The hon. Gentleman is always very helpful in tying himself in knots and confusing debates. On this occasion, however, I will make some progress, because I have got 10 minutes left and I would like to put down some further reassurances. I may give way later on, time permitting.

Once again, I congratulate the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South on securing the debate, and I would like to say at the outset that we all believe care.data to be a good thing. It is good news for patients, for improving transparency in health care and for improving the quality of research. Those are undoubtedly good things, and we must not lose sight of them in our discussion. The lessons of Mid Staffordshire point out that if we do not properly expose examples of bad care—if we do not have the data, and the transparency in the use of those data, to expose good and bad care in the NHS—bad things can happen to patients. That is a lesson that we must heed.

We must also recognise that if we had had better data sharing in the past, we might have been able to learn better how to recognise patterns in prescribing that were to the detriment of patients, such as the example that has been cited of the use of thalidomide during pregnancy. We might have avoided some very bad things happening to patients if we had had the necessary data. That is what our proposals are about.

This is not a sudden, big-bang change. Opposition Members have put it about that we are dealing with a big change in approach to the use of data in the NHS, but I remind the Chamber that in 1989, hospital episode statistics were first collected for in-patient data, in 2003 for out-patient data and in 2007-08 for A and E data, and primary care data are now being made available.

Of course we understand that the use of data can be concerning, so I want to reassure everyone that the right safeguards are in place, many of them established by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The new body, the Health and Social Care Information Centre, must have regard to the safeguards put in place by the 2012 Act. The Government take the safeguarding of patient data very seriously.

The commercial reuse of licences was raised in the debate. The Health and Social Care Information Centre has confirmed that some reuse agreements remain in place for specific organisations in relation to approved purposes. The purpose of each application is carefully considered by the HSCIC before it is agreed. That consideration includes the application’s benefit to the health and care system, a safeguard established by the 2012 Act for the use of data.