This site is intended for health professionals only

Automatic online access to GP records halted until further notice

by Costanza Potter
29 November 2022

Share this article

The BMA has revealed that the rollout of automatic patient access to GP records via the NHS app will not go ahead today (30 November) as planned.

NHS England has agreed to halt the process, with practices to find out the next steps shortly, it said.

Automatic access to patients’ prospective patient records was due to be switched on by the end of the month, following delays related to concerns about patient safety.

But the BMA last week issued a seven-day ultimatum for the Government to address concerns over online patient access to GP records before it takes ‘significant action’.

It said yesterday that NHS England has now agreed to ‘review the pace and timing’ of the rollout.

According to the BMA, practices that have asked their IT system supplier not to turn on the functionality ‘will not see the programme switched on automatically on the 30 November as had been planned’.

‘Those that have not sent such a letter will be contacted by their system supplier to discuss what happens next, and when switch on will occur for them,’ it added.

However, the BMA stressed that these practices ‘can still opt-out at this stage by sending a letter to their suppliers’. 

And it said that it will ‘be in dialogue with IT clinical software suppliers on the next steps’.

The BMA said NHS England’s decision to halt the automatic blanket rollout of the scheme is the ‘right thing to do’ for patient safety.

It said this follows a series of talks between the Association and NHS England, in which the BMA made clear many practices ‘would not be ready to roll out the programme in a safe way for patients, and that it didn’t comply with their data protection obligations’.

The BMA’s GP Committee for England added that it is ‘committed to working with NHS England over the coming months to ensure that progress on the programme going forward will be safe for patients, streamlined for practices and comply with data protection regulations.’

An update issued by NHS England today said it remains ‘firmly committed to ensuring all practices across England’ provide prospective online access to records ‘in line with the 2019 GP contract so that patients can better manage their own health via easy access to information such as test results and referral letters’.

It added: ‘By giving practices more time to prepare, we will ensure the new functionality is available to be adopted throughout the country safely and effectively for the benefit of patients and clinicians alike.’

NHS England is ‘continuing to work at pace to make the necessary changes to allow patients access to their information’ for practices that have not asked EMIS or TPP to pause, which will see a ‘phased rollout’, it said.

Data will only be visible from the date of the switch-on, so practices are not required to review information entered since 1 November, when the rollout was supposed to take place, it added.

It said: ‘For those practices that have asked EMIS and TPP not to enable this change, we have instructed both suppliers to pause.

‘Recognising current pressures, we will continue to work with the BMA, RCGP and local commissioning teams to establish what further support is needed so practices can move quickly to offer all their patients prospective access.’

GPC England deputy chair Dr David Wrigley said: ‘We’re pleased to hear that NHS England has decided to review the pace and timing of the automatic, mass roll-out of the Citizens’ Access programme. This is, without doubt, the right thing to do for patient safety.

‘We want patients to be able to access their GP medical records, but this must be done carefully, with the appropriate safeguards in place to protect them from any potential harm.’

He added: ‘The deadline of November 30 was, for many practices, just too soon to do this, and removing it will come as a huge relief to GPs and their teams across the country.

‘We’re pleased that our members’ concerns have been listened to and are open to working with NHS England to revise the programme accordingly to find a way forward that works for everyone.’

The BMA stressed that patients will still be able to request access to their digital records on an individual basis, as is currently the case.

It was revealed last week that the BMA had sought legal advice over potential action against the rollout.

All practices in England were set to have automatic access to prospective records switched on by the end of the month, meaning that patients would have been able to view anything added to their records from tomorrow through the NHS App.

This article was previously published on our sister title, Pulse