NHS patients have no specific legal right to prevent demographic data being stored on the Personal Demographics Service (PDS). NHS Digital has a legal responsibility to maintain a national register of NHS patients. This responsibility is fulfilled through the PDS which is the authoritative source of NHS demographic data. The NHS cannot comply with requests for data not to be held on the PDS.
The NHS is required to hold demographic data about its patients to:
- satisfy legal requirements for a register of patients under the care of each GP practice
- ensure that each patient presenting for care is ordinarily resident in the UK and, therefore, eligible for free care
- ensure that every patient has a unique identifier so that they can be readily identified by healthcare professionals and associated quickly and accurately with their correct medical details
- contact patients when they need to attend medical appointments or for other authorised purposes
Although demographic data must be held, there are cases where access to a patient’s details must be strictly controlled. Access to demographic records can be restricted on request by, or on behalf of, any NHS patient who feels that their location details should not be accessible by the NHS.