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Independents' Day

Green light for new patient records without consent

By Steve Nowottny

NHS IT chiefs have given the green light for GPs to massively increase the amount of information held about patients on electronic records without the need for consent.

Guidance drawn up jointly with the Medical Protection Society advises GPs there is no requirement to obtain explicit consent before uploading an ‘enhanced' Summary Care Record, containing far more information than just drugs and allergies.

It states: ‘The decision to do so is at the discretion of the GP but they may wish to discuss this with the patient. Practices which enrich records without consent should ensure that the material patients have received through the public information programme incorporates the significant medical history elements that could be included.'

But the guidance does advise GPs to consider confirming with patients if they want potentially embarrassing or harmful material, such as a previous termination of pregnancy, included in their enhanced record.

So far just a handful of GPs in early adopter areas have begun uploading ‘enhanced' records. But a motion to next month's LMCs conference, submitted by GPs from the first early adopter area, Bolton, has objected to the practice, which now looks set to be adopted nationally.

The motion, which will be included as part of a wider debate on the Summary Care Record, argued: ‘That conference believes that patients must give explicit consent before their information is uploaded to create an ‘enriched' Summary Care Record.'

The latest Connecting for Health guidance also warns practices that they face losing patients if they choose not to participate in the national rollout of the Summary Care Record.

It warns: ‘If GPs embrace the Summary Care Record in sufficient numbers, it will be harder and harder for individual practices to ‘opt out' of the process as it becomes the established ‘norm'.'

‘The patient may wish to discuss their preference with the GP practice or consider registering with a participating practice. It is important that the practice explains to the patient that they are not participating in the SCR programme and that the patient has the option of registering elsewhere if they wish.'

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