This site is intended for health professionals only

One in five GP practices not yet offering automatic records access

by Eliza Parr
4 December 2023

Share this article

One month after the deadline to switch on prospective records access, 20% of GP practices have not yet complied with the contractual obligation.

This year’s GP contract stipulated that all practices must offer access via the NHS App, unless patients opt out or exceptions apply, by 31 October.

NHS England’s update today said over 4,500 practices (81.1%) now offer automatic access, covering 23.5 million patients. 

GP leaders have pushed back against NHS England’s instruction – the BMA’s GP Committee England considered a legal challenge to delay the deadline further, but was later forced to abandon these plans for financial and legal reasons. 

More recently, the BMA joined with more than 20 violence against women organisations to express concerns about granting vulnerable patients access to their GP record.

They highlighted the possibility of perpetrators of domestic abuse being able to gain access to a survivor’s records by coercing the survivor to share access.

The GPC has also urged practices to do a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) before enabling records access, and to consider an opt-in model if risks are identified. 

While the GP contract letter clearly stated that ‘new health information’ should be available to all patients ‘by 31 October at the latest’, the primary care recovery plan in May set a target for 90% of practices to enable patients to see their records using the NHS App by March 2024.

Our sister publication Pulse said it understands that NHS England is not taking a punitive enforcement approach for the remaining 20% of practices who have not yet switched on access, but is focusing on supporting them to iron out any issues.

NHSE national director for transformation Vin Diwakar said they ‘strongly encourage the remaining practices to implement the change’ and urged those who are ‘having challenges delivering this service’ to take up the support available. 

He said: ‘In October alone, more than nine million people viewed their health records through the NHS App which means they can manage their own heath better while GP practices are seeing a reduction in telephone calls for things like test results.

‘Boosting patient records access will undoubtedly bring improvements for both patients and staff.’

Addressing concerns about vulnerable patients having access to their records, NHSE said it had worked with relevant individuals and organisations to ‘provide guidance to GPs on how to put safeguards in place’.

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