A CONTROVERSIAL scheme to create a national database for NHS medical records has been put on hold after concerns were raised by Southampton residents and health campaigners.

Healthwatch Southampton played a vital role in getting NHS England to delay the Care.data programme by six months – which will see medical records of the public transferred to a central system.

They highlighted concerns over the lack of a known deadline by which people have time to opt in or out of the programme and felt that without one, people may miss their chance to opt out.

The group also expressed concerns that those who do opt out, are not given any acknowledgement that they had done so, which could leave many in doubt over whether or not their data has been transferred.

The Care.data scheme has already faced strong criticism from privacy campaigners who have raised fears about who will have access to confidential data and whether or not it can fall into the hands of private companies.

But some senior doctors and health executives including Lord Darzi, one of the world’s most celebrated surgeons, and Lord Crisp, the former chief executive of the NHS, said the database could lead to medical advances and improvements in patient care.

Now, after Healthwatch Southampton raised its concerns, along with other Healthwatch groups across the UK, the scheme has been delayed to address the issues.

Rob Kurn, Healthwatch Southampton manager, said: “By working together local Healthwatches and Healthwatch England have demonstrated that we can give the public a voice and influences decision at the highest level.

“We are pleased at the result of this work, which we hope will see this scheme communicated far more clearly and give the public a further six months to fully understand the issues and decide whether to opt in or out.”