MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has warned his constituents to act quickly if they want to stop their personal medical records being harvested for a new national data base.
He says he shares the concerns of many GPs about NHS Digital, which is designed to hold the medical details of more than 55 million patients.
From there they will be made available to the private sector and other researchers.
Department of Health officials say the move will reduce the burden on GP practices and create a valuable resource. And while the data will include details of patients’ physical, mental and sexual health it will be anonymised.
But critics say that process could be reversed if the material falls into the wrong hands. And they are also concerned that the records will be automatically transferred to the new system on July 1 unless patients tell their GPs they want to opt out. The deadline for doing so is June 23.
The new system is already meeting a hostile reception in some areas, with a number of London GPs declaring they will refuse to hand the information over and questioning the entire legitimacy of the operation.
And Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, says he fears the records of thousands of elderly patients will be transferred merely because they have failed to realise they have to actively stop the handover.
He said the Department of Health was trying to slip the scheme through under the radar.
“It has not received anything like the widespread publicity such a monumental undertaking should,” he said.
“At the very least patients should be sent personal letters setting out the proposals and giving them a chance to reflect and make a decision as to whether their information should or should not be made available.
“Now that concerns are being raised I can foresee a rush of patients approaching their GPs at a time when, like so many sections of the NHS, surgeries are under extra pressure because of Covid.