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Government considering ‘mandating’ access for patients to their GP records

by Caitlin Tilley
13 June 2022

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The Government is considering ‘mandating’ access for patients to their GP records, as is done in the US, it has announced.

This would make it ‘easier’ for GP patients to get hold of their data and records, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in its final data strategy, Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data, published today.

As of April last year, health organisations in the US are required to share medical records with patients electronically and for free.

It remains unclear what exactly would be mandated and what this would mean for GPs. The DHSC has been approached for further details.

Patient access to records delayed

Meanwhile, the DHSC has also indicated that patient access to GP records on the NHS App will be delayed until November, following rumours it would launch in July this year.

It said: ‘We will improve access to GP records in the NHS App by giving patients access to their latest health information (November 2022).’

The DHSC strategy also confirmed that patients will be able to ‘share information about their sleep or physical activity from wearable devices’ to their GP via the NHS App, as revealed by the draft plan in June last year.

Meanwhile, the Government admitted in the document that it had made a ‘mistake’ when it tried to relaunch plans for mass patient data sharing last year.

It said: ‘We did not do enough to explain the improvements needed to the way we collect general practice data. Not only did we insufficiently explain, we also did not listen and engage well enough. This led to confusion and anxiety, and created a perception that we were willing to press ahead regardless.’

NHS Digital is currently analysing results from a survey of GP practice staff about their views on digital data.

The final data strategy also said:

Speaking today at the HealthTech summit, health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We will improve trust in data, which is the currency that data-driven technologies need to function.

‘We will work with the public, including people working in health and care, to develop a new pact on data, which will set out how we will use health and care data, and what the public has the right to expect.’

He added: ‘This will include the ability to opt out of sharing data because although we know that most people want their data to be used for good, we will make the opt-out system simpler and more transparent.’

Access to innovation

The new strategy comes after NHS Digital launched a new framework to increase access to innovation and choice in the primary care IT market, as part of its GP IT Futures programme which hopes to move GP practices towards cloud-based systems.

The framework will allow commissioners to buy GP systems, products and services that deliver at least six core functions, including patient information maintenance, appointment management, recording consultations, prescribing, referral management and resource management.

NHS Digital said this was a ‘blueprint for introducing the next generation of standards for IT systems’.

Helen Clifton, executive director for product delivery at NHS Digital, said: ‘It will give GPs access to innovative solutions that feature tools they need to make their jobs easier and services which enhance the care they provide patients.’

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.