GP practices could face prosecution under the Data Protection Act if they do not take steps to inform patients that data will be taken from their records and used by the NHS and private companies from this autumn.
The data will be sent to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and researchers and private companies will be able to bid to access it, the general practice magazine Pulse reported.
Patients who do not want their data to be extracted can opt out, but the obligation has fallen on GP surgeries to inform patients about the plan - or face legal action.
A spokesman for the Information Commissioners Office told Pulse: “We'd expect GPs to take reasonable steps to inform patients of the changes. If they fail to do so they leave themselves open to possible action for failure to comply with the Data Protection Act.”
GPs have criticised the plan, saying that practices will be caught between their lawful obligation to provide data to HSCIC and their duty to protect patient data.
HSCIC said all data would be securely stored in their database accordance with strict information governance rules and that would be robust regulations around who can access the data. While private companies are eligible to apply, they must meet a very strict set of rules and regulations and HSCIC is responsible for ensuring there is an appropriate legal basis to permit the release and subsequent processing of data.