Atos will soon be given the powers to directly access the records of millions of patients across the UK, it has been revealed.

The controversial firm has attracted widespread criticism after assessing millions of terminally ill and disabled patients across the UK as fit to work.

Some of those patients died shortly after the Atos medical assessment. While that does not imply that the medical assessment was in any way associated with their deaths, it certainly does highlight the inaccuracy of many of their judgements.

In 2012, 42 per cent of appeals against Work Capability Assessments were upheld but in the first two years of the programme the rate of successful appeals was below 40 per cent.

Now it has emerged that Atos has been given the contract to extract patient records from GP surgeries as part of the controversial NHS data sharing scheme.

The company has also been given responsibility for removing personal data from medical records, as part of the national programme, which has been delayed for six months following widespread controversy.

Once data has been extracted from GP surgeries, it would be held in a “safe haven” held by the centre.

The data extracted from medical records includes information on family history, vaccinations, referrals for treatment, diagnoses and information about prescriptions.
In addition, it will include biological values such as a patient’s blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels.
Personal confidential data identifiers will also be taken, such as date of birth, postcode, NHS number and gender.

Critics have voiced concern over this new contract and said that it would serve to undermine public confidence in the scheme.

Concern has also been raised over whether the DWP would gain access to the database, and whether it could affect benefits and pension claims.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA general practitioners committee said that the plans could destroy the trust between doctors and their patients.

He said: “Patients visit their GP, they visit us and they entrust us with very personal, confidential information as part of their life-long record in general practice.

“At the heart of our concern as GPs is that if patients mistrust or are concerned about the security of their data, or have concerns about how this data will be used, that would actually potentially, irrevocably damage that fabric of trust when a patient walks into their GP surgery.

“That may actually have other consequences in the way the NHS records data, it may actually result in patient not attending their surgery at all, for fear or what may happen to their records or they might be inhibited in being totally open about some things.”

In February, the company confirmed it was seeking an early exit from its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the face of persistent death threats to staff.

The revelations come after it emerged that NHS data has previously been sold to a society of actuaries which worked alongside insurance firms.

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