National data opt-out

The national data opt-out was introduced to give patients a choice on how their confidential patient information is used for purposes beyond their individual care.

The information that the opt-out applies to is special category data as it includes information about a patient’s health care and/or treatment that has been collected as part of the care we provide for the patient.

Patients can set or change their national data opt-out choice using an online or contact centre service. When a patient sets a national data opt-out it is in held in a repository on the NHS Spine against the patient’s NHS number.

In accordance with the patient’s wishes and national data opt-out policy, as a health and care organisation located in England, we are required to apply national data opt-outs when applicable to a use or disclosure of confidential patient information for purposes other than the patient’s care or treatment.

Applying the opt-out to a data use/disclosure requires that we check, by using the NHS numbers of patients, whether a patient has registered an opt-out before the data is used/disclosed.

To do this a separate list of the NHS numbers in the data that is going to be used/disclosed needs to be created.

The list of NHS numbers is then submitted to the Check for National Data Opt-outs service via the secure Message Exchange for Social Care and Health (MESH) messaging service. The Check for National Data Opt-outs service is an external service provided by NHS Digital. The service checks the list of NHS Numbers against a list of opt-outs created from the repository on the NHS Spine, where a match is found it removes the NHS number from the list and then returns an updated list of NHS numbers (with opt-outs removed) back to us via MESH.

We then match the updated list of NHS numbers against our original set of data that was going to be used/disclosed and remove the entire record for those patient records where the NHS numbers match. This creates a ‘cleaned’ set of data with opt-outs applied that we can then use/disclose.

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