General practitioner Northern Ireland Scotland England Wales

Last updated:

Call for clampdown on access to online records

GPs want to ensure patient confidentiality is protected as records become increasingly accessible online.

The BMA local medical committees conference called for action in key areas including:

  • Government plans to allow unrestricted patient access to medical records online by 2015
  • The increased data extraction from GP clinical systems
  • The increasing number of proposals for data-sharing agreements.

GPs repeatedly stressed their role as data controllers in respect of patient records and the need to maintain the trust patients placed in them to uphold their confidentiality.

They acknowledged that patients should have greater access to their online records but called for sensible safeguards to prevent unplanned access.

Nottinghamshire GP Chris Locke questioned whether a new breed of lawyers would comb through patients records and threaten action if a GP had or had not taken a certain decision.

He said he was also worried about vulnerable patients being ‘forced to provide details to third parties’.

Useful research tool

GPs also agreed there should be a public awareness-raising campaign before patients were given access to their online records.

Iain Bonavia LMCs 2013Cleveland GP Iain Bonavia (pictured right) said GPs needed to guard against suggestions that by being treated on the NHS, patients were automatically agreeing to have their data used.

Glasgow GP John Ip said the fact that the GP record was the best in the world made it a useful research tool.

But he said: ‘We need to say to patients their data is safe in our hands.’

GPs urged the BMA GPs committee to ensure data-protection principles were applied to data extraction and for public debate on this issue.

GPs also called for clarification on the latest data-sharing principles, published last month by Dame Fiona Caldicott.