Last week NHS England ordered the delay after pressure from patients groups, doctors’ leaders and privacy campaigners, who argued that the national plan had been poorly communicated, and that the public had not been properly informed about their right to opt out.

Yesterday, health service officials disclosed that a key contract for the controversial project has been handed to the firm Atos, which has faced criticism over its handling of “fitness for work” tests on disabled benefit claimants.

Last week, 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.


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