GPs at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Local Medical Committee (LMC) Conference in London have voted to move a step closer to paperless practices.
In a motion put forward by Hull LMC, GPs voted in favour of fully funding the scanning, digitizing and shredding of paper records.
Dr Anthony O’Brien from Devon LMC said David Lloyd George would be unhappy to learn that the envelopes named after him were still being used more than a century later.
However, O’Brien noted that while going paperless by destroying paper records in essential, NHS regulations are unclear on whether or not this is permitted.
He said: “No one has officially decided that we can definitely shred all of the notes. They can all be digitised but can they be destroyed? The regulations are ambiguous.
“What’s required is a simple and obvious decision from Simon Stevens or Jeremy Hunt so that we can get rid of paper records.”
Dr Violaine Carpenter from West Hertfordshire LMC said storing paper records is taking up space in surgeries that were already overcrowded.
She said: “It’s farcical that we either have Lloyd George envelopes taking up valuable space or we have to pay private companies to store and transport them for us.
“Properly digitising records would free up clinical space, save millions of pounds over the years, and reduce our carbon footprint.”
This was part of a larger motion calling for a major upgrade to the technology in GP practices, including better broadband connectivity, improved support services and “a fit for purpose national primary care IT specification”.
However, in the same debate, the GPs rejected a motion to relinquish their status as data controller “given the rise of multi-agency integrated digital care records and patient access to their own records”.
Dr Mark Brooke of Bradford and Airedale LMC noting an “increasing number of requests from all sorts of people to access our data”.
He said: “Let’s get rid of our controller status. We do not have it and no longer need it.”
Dr Alan Mills from Cambridgeshire LMC agreed that some control over patient records has been “eroded of late” but told fellow GPs to stand up for their profession.
“We are the gatekeepers of the NHS,” he said. “If we are not the data controllers, we will be the data users and will be told by someone else what to do with the records and how to do it.”
However, Dr Paul Cundy, chairman of the GPC IT subcommittee said sharing patient data “should actually strengthen your control. You just need to exert it. Where would the data controller status go if it were not with you?”
The motion, which was proposed by South Staffordshire LMC, also saw GPs reject sharing paper notes with patients for safekeeping.
The conference carried, however, the need to consider confidentiality for adolescents and vulnerable adults, the negotiation of a national data sharing agreement, and addressing of the workload implications of data sharing.