Following the Government’s decision to impose the GP contract in England this year, all practices are contractually obliged to provide patients with online prospective access to their records. Practices’ contracts require them to abide by this from 31 October 2023.
This prospective online access will include the following for all patients:
- the coded record and any associated free text
- records of consultations along with any associated free text
- test results
- all documents
Legally, GPs must act in the interests of their patients and as data controllers look to mitigate data protection risks. Practices are required to carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) exploring the risks and any possible mitigations as part of the implementation of this programme.
The BMA’s General Practitioners Committee England (GPCE) are supportive of patients having access to their records as long as this is safe for patients and safe for GPs. GPC England continues to put forward the case for making access to records on an opt-in basis. The risks we see at the present time include:
- Harm to patients through the exposure to upsetting investigation results, consultation entries, documents or a serious diagnosis without adequate preparation or an opportunity for the GP (or hospital doctor) to counsel the patient in a supportive environment.
- Inadequate redaction software provision leading to pressure to over or under redact third-party data or material that may cause serious harm
- Risks to patients in abusive relationships with access being gained to their medical record by coercive partners or other family members
- Patients seeing third party confidential data
- Workload implications of rolling the project out at what is a very busy time in general practice with no additional workforce or funding in place to help support this
- Patients being given access with no warning when some may not even want that access