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Online records duties explained

6 May 2015

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Practices have been contractually required to offer patients in England online access to summary information from their medical records since the end of March, so the Medical Defence Union (MDU) has explained some common concerns.

Online access means patients can see their results online rather than having to call their practice, share their information with friends and family and ensure it is accurate and up to date.

However the MDU says it has been contacted by a number of GPs with queries about giving patients access to their records online, if they need to limit access to sensitive information and how to deal with parents’ requests to access children’s records.

Dr Beverley Ward, MDU medico-legal adviser, said: “Making confidential information about patients available online has logistical difficulties, and practices will need to consider how to allow patients to access information securely, while being sensitive to any information which may cause distress.

“GPs may need to explain any abbreviations the records contain and will need to ensure test results are reviewed and discussed with the patient before they are uploaded to the online record.

“Another area of concern is requests by parents to access children’s records. For children over 16, GPs should usually get their consent before granting access to someone with parental responsibility, but for under-16s the situation is more complicated.

“The RCGP suggests that full access for those with parental responsibility should be automatically switched off at age 11 and a discussion arranged with the child and parents to consider the extent of on-going access. However, the age at which a child becomes competent will vary and it will be important to keep any access by parents under regular review.”

See more guidance from the MDU here