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Digital Access to Patients' GP Records Delayed

Even by government and NHS standards, the twists and turns in the story of patient access to their GP records have been confusing. There have been delays and lack of clarity over exactly what is happening, and why.

Here we look at what we know after the latest announcement.

What is the idea behind access to patient records?

Since April 2020, patients have been able to request their own full, historic digital records from their GPs. The next step is that they will be given online access to their future or prospective records.

According to NHS Digital, “patients are being given online account access to their future, or prospective, full general practice health record including free text, letters and documents. Patients will see new information once it is entered, or filed, onto their record in the clinical system.”

This applies to patients whose practice use either the TPP or EMIS systems. Arrangements with practices which use Vision as the clinical system are under discussion

The programme’s aim was to support the commitment given in the NHS long-term plan that patients would have digital access to their own medical records. The evidence has proved the need for this; there are now more than 26 million users of the NHS app, wanting better access to information held about themselves. This is also an important initiative because it will help reduce the volume of requests sent to general practices for things like negative test results or referral letters.

What has happened?

The launch date for viewing patients records online on the app initiative was originally October 2021, but that was delayed to April 2022 because the BMA and others including, including the RCGP, raised concerns. Now, the latest comment from NHSE is that it is not sure when it will be rolled out, but that it has been delayed again.

Some Local Medical Committees including Kent LMC have now disclosed that they had been informed the access wouldn’t now be granted until July this year.

Patients will not see their historic, or past, health record information unless they have already been given access to it by their GP practice.

Why has this happened?

NHSE have acknowledged that there were concerns around patient ‘safeguarding’. The BMA wrote in a recent GP bulletin that they were seeking to pause the rollout, and ensure the views of the profession were represented adequately. And the RCGP has said at least eight more weeks are needed so that more guidance for practices can be published before it kicks in.

What’s next?

We’ll monitor the news for any further updates on this subject. In the meantime, the NHS has published Frequently Asked Questions on the scheme.

Thornfields, our expert primary care training team, also runs workshops on subjects like Improving the Patient Experience, to help all primary care staff give the best service they can to all patients. They also offer courses which help you to understand the practical implications of these changes, on Clinical Coding, Clinical Notes Summarising, and Information Governance.


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