MISINFORMATION about the controversial GP data sharing scheme is being perpetuated by a "small but vocal minority" and could potentially "derail" the system, experts have warned.

But the political parties which make up Herefordshire Council welcomed the Government delaying the start date of the project, with the cabinet member for health saying the extra time was needed.

The move, called an NHS data grab by some, will help to improve the care of patients with many conditions that are managed by GPs, Professor Cathie Sudlow said.

Conditions such as long Covid, dementia, arthritis, heart failure and depression are mainly managed in GP surgeries and research into these ailments is "not as good as it could be" due to current limitations on data sharing, the director of the BHF Data Science Centre at Health Data Research UK added.

Experts said GPs should not be able to opt out their whole practice from the scheme but it should be a decision for patients themselves.

Health minister Jo Churchill told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the General Practice Data for Planning and Research project was due to start in July but its start date has been delayed until September.

It comes after privacy concerns were raised about the project.

However, Prof Sudlow said a "small but vocal minority" of campaigners were behind a "circulation of misinformation about this new and improved primary care data collection".

Another expert from the UK Biobank research project said the scheme could potentially be "derailed by misinformation".

Professor Sir Rory Collins, principal investigator and chief executive for the UK Biobank project, added that data on patients in the community "left GP practices years ago".

GP data is already held by private companies which do not have the same "independent controls and oversight" which exist within NHS Digital, he said.

Meanwhile, people's concerns about "third party" data access could be misunderstood, experts suggested.

For instance, Oxford University researchers are technically a third party.

Companies like Google would not be able to obtain data for marketing purposes but could potentially be granted permission to access data for research purposes, for example if the tech giant was attempting to develop technology to help patients with diabetes control their condition.

In a statement from Herefordshire's coalition, made up of councillors from It’s Our County, the Green Party, and the Herefordshire Independents, it welcomed the delays.

Pauline Crockett, cabinet member for health and adult wellbeing, said the move would give GPs more time to inform their patients that they can opt out of the proposed scheme where information from surgeries in England will be added to an NHS Digital database.

Coun Crockett said: "Most people have no idea that their data from records created up to 10 years ago and including sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, diagnoses, medications and information about a patients’ physical, mental and sexual health will be added to this data base, unless patients opt out."