Your personal data and the NHS

There are, broadly, two main categories of data: data which is identifiable as being connected with you and data which is anonymous and cannot be connected with any individual.

Identifiable data may be linked to you by unique items such as date of birth or NHS number or by a number of different less specific items which, when used together, could point to you as an individual; such as a rare diagnosis and a postcode. Anonymous data cannot be traced in any way.

There is a third category: pseudonymised where a person with authorisation holds a ‘key’ to unlock data without which it would be anonymous and unable to be linked back to anyone.

Your confidential identifiable personal information is used in two different ways in the NHS:

  • Your individual care
    Health and care professionals may use your confidential patient information to help with your treatment and care. For example, when you visit your GP, they may access your records for important information about your health and if you need a referral to another healthcare professional, sufficient personal information will need to be passed on to ensure good care.
  • Research and planning
    Confidential patient information is also used to plan and improve health and care services or for research to develop treatments for serious illnesses. Usually this is presented as anonymous data but if it needs to be identifiable we will need your permission. There are one or two special exceptions to this set out in law, for instance if information is required by a statutory authority for the public good, maybe during an epidemic.

Opting out:
If you don’t want your confidential patient information to be used for research and planning, you can opt out of this (see below). Your confidential patient information will still be used to support your individual care. Any choice you set using this service will not change this right.

Click here for full details on health records in the NHS.