Leaflets explaining how the NHS uses patient information will begin landing on Wiltshire doormats in the next few days.
The leaflet entitled Better Information Means Better Care, explains the benefits of sharing information about the care people have received.
Sharing information is said to help ensure that the quality and safety of services is consistent across the country and can also highlight different diseases and conditions that may require more NHS investment.
The program will use information to improve the safety and care of patients. Only minimum information needed to improve patient care and services, the benefits include:
• Find more effective ways of preventing, treating and managing illnesses;
• Make sure that any changes or improvements to services reflect the needs of local patients;
• Understand who is most at risk of particular diseases and conditions, so those who plan care can provide preventative services;
• Improve your understanding of the outcomes of care, giving you greater confidence in health and social care services;
• Guide decisions about how to manage NHS resources so that they can best support the treatment and care of all patients;
• Identify who could be at risk of a condition or would benefit from a particular treatment;
• Make sure that NHS organisations receive the correct payments for the services they provide.
As explained in the leaflet, patients have the right to object to their data being used for purposes other than their direct care. If patients wish to restrict their data being used then they should talk to their GP.
An information line has been set up for patients to call if they have any questions or concerns about how their data are used. The number is 0300 456 3531.
Millions of patients are treated by the NHS every week and modern data techniques allow the analysis of those patients, their treatments, and experiences to help improve the quality of care.
Dr Elizabeth Mearns, Medical Director at NHS England Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire Area Team, said: “The NHS has been collecting information like this from hospitals for decades but until now we’ve been missing information about the quality of care provided outside hospital.
"This initiative is about upgrading our information systems to get a more complete picture of the quality of care being delivered across all parts of the NHS and social care.”
Dr Imran Rafi, chair of the Clinical Innovation and Research Centre at the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “I fully support this initiative. GPs understand the importance of sharing information appropriately both as part of delivering clinical care and for wider uses, such as research and for planning NHS services.
"It is important that patients understand how the NHS uses and shares their information, and that they feel they have been given a proper choice to participate. The spin-off is the potential for all NHS patients to benefit."
Dr Mark Davies, Medical Director at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, said: “The Health and Social Care Information Centre was set up as the legal ‘safe haven’ for protecting and managing patient information.
"We want everyone to feel confident that their information is kept private and used in non-identifiable form to improve the quality of health and social care for everyone. "
"Equally important is that everyone knows that they have a choice and can raise an objection by simply talking to their GP.”