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RCGP calls for eight-week delay to access to GP data programme

by Beth Gault
14 March 2022

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RCGP has urged the health secretary to delay the rollout of the accelerated citizen access to GP data  programme by at least eight-weeks to ensure guidance can be published for practices before it begins.

The programme, which plans to allow patients to have automatic access to their ‘future or prospective, full GP health record’ via the NHS app and other patient facing apps, is due to be rolled out in April.

However, RCGP has warned this will not give enough time for practices to assess the risks associated with the increased access, such as removing a level of clinical oversight and safeguarding.

RCGP is updating its patient online toolkit, which will have guidance on these situations, however it has said this will not be ready until the end of March, which gives limited time for practices to take steps to mitigate these risks.  

It said: ‘We are committed to working to support patients to access and make best use of their GP records. However, patient access to their records is not without risk and we have a responsibility to represent our most vulnerable patients in highlighting the associated safeguarding risks.

‘These include the risk of possible harm to patients or third parties and to the clinician-patient relationship due to error, coercion or missed opportunities for appropriate clinical oversight and communication.’

Under the increased access, patients will see new information once it is entered or filed onto their record in the clinical system.

However, they will not see their historic or past health record information unless they’ve already been given access to it. Patients will also not have access to administrative tasks or communications between practice staff.

Longer delay to access needed

RCGP added that the ‘most appropriate’ course of action would be to delay the process even longer.

It said: ‘We are highly concerned that the current timeline of April 2022, does not allow for the necessary time and care to be taken. This week, the RCGP has written to the secretary of state to set out these concerns and to request a minimum of an eight-week delay to ensure guidance can be properly rolled out.

‘We have also suggested that the most appropriate course of action would be a longer delay to allow time for piloting and a more gradual implementation approach to be adopted.’

The programme was launched to support the long-term plan commitment to provide patients with digital access to their health records.

Practices who use TPP or EMIS systems will be expected to offer this service to patients, however discussions are still happening for practices using Vision.

NHS England are running awareness sessions for practice staff in March.

Earlier this month, NHS England said it was scrapping the contractual requirement that practices must list at least 25% of appointments for online booking, amid a raft of new changes to the GP contract.