COVID-19 and Your Information

The ICO recognises the unprecedented challenges the NHS and other health professionals are facing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The ICO also recognise that ‘Public bodies may require additional collection and sharing of personal data to protect against serious threats to public health.’

The Government have also taken action in respect of this and on 20th March 2020 the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care issued a Notice under Regulation 3(4) of The Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002 requiring organisations such as GP Practices to use your information to help GP Practices and other healthcare organisations to respond to and deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to look after your healthcare needs during this difficult time, we may urgently need to share your personal information, including medical records, with clinical and non clinical staff who belong to organisations that are permitted to use your information and need to use it to help deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. This could (amongst other measures) consist of either treating you or a member of your family and enable us and other healthcare organisations to monitor the disease, assess risk and manage the spread of the disease.

Please be assured that we will only share information and health data that is necessary to meet yours and public healthcare needs.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has also stated that these measures are temporary and will expire 30 September 2020 unless a further extension is required. Any further extension will be will be provided in writing and we will communicate the same to you.

Please also note that the data protection and electronic communication laws do not stop us from sending public health messages to you, either by phone, text or email as these messages are not direct marketing.

It may also be necessary, where the latest technology allows us to do so, to use your information and health data to facilitate digital consultations and diagnoses and we will always do this with your security in mind.

Supplementary Privacy Note on COVID-19 for Patients/Service Users

This notice describes how we may use your information to protect you and others during the COVID-19 outbreak. It supplements our main Privacy Notice which is available in our waiting areas.

The health and social care system is facing significant pressures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Health and care information is essential to deliver care to individuals, to support health and social care services and to protect public health. Information will also be vital in researching, monitoring, tracking and managing the outbreak. In the current emergency it has become even more important to share health and care information across relevant organisations.

Existing law which allows confidential patient information to be used and shared appropriately and lawfully in a public health emergency is being used during this outbreak. Using this law the Secretary of State has required NHS Digital; NHS England and Improvement; Arms Length Bodies (such as Public Health England); local authorities; health organisations and GPs to share confidential patient information to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Any information used or shared during the COVID-19 outbreak will be limited to the period of the outbreak unless there is another legal basis to use the data. Further information is available on the gov.uk website and some FAQs on this law are available at NHSx: COPI notice – frequently asked questions.

During this period of emergency, opt-outs will not generally apply to the data used to support the COVID-19 outbreak, due to the public interest in sharing information. This includes National Data Opt-outs. However in relation to the Summary Care Record, existing choices will be respected. Where data is used and shared under these laws your right to have personal data erased will also not apply. It may also take us longer to respond to Subject Access requests, Freedom of Information requests and new opt-out requests whilst we focus our efforts on responding to the outbreak.

In order to look after your health and care needs we may share your confidential patient information including health and care records with clinical and non clinical staff in other health and care providers, for example neighbouring GP practices, hospitals and NHS 111. We may also use the details we have to send public health messages to you, either by phone, text or email.

During this period of emergency we may offer you a consultation via telephone or video-conferencing. By accepting the invitation and entering the consultation you are consenting to this. Your personal/confidential patient information will be safeguarded in the same way it would with any other consultation.

We will also be required to share personal/confidential patient information with health and care organisations and other bodies engaged in disease surveillance for the purposes of protecting public health, providing healthcare services to the public and monitoring and managing the outbreak. Further information about how health and care data is being used and shared by other NHS and social care organisations in a variety of ways to support the COVID-19 response is available at NHSx: How data is supporting the COVID-19 response.

NHS England and Improvement and NHSX have developed a single, secure store to gather data from across the health and care system to inform the COVID-19 response. This includes data already collected by NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England and NHS Digital. New data will include 999 call data, data about hospital occupancy and A&E capacity data as well as data provided by patients themselves. All the data held in the platform is subject to strict controls that meet the requirements of data protection legislation.

In such circumstances where you tell us you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms we may need to collect specific health data about you. Where we need to do so, we will not collect more information than we require and we will ensure that any information collected is treated with the appropriate safeguards.

We may amend this privacy notice at any time so please review it frequently. The date at the top of this page will be amended each time this notice is updated.