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GPs go forth

GPs asked to lobby MPs over 'bombardment' of patient data requests

GP leaders have asked practices to lead a campaign against the use of data protection laws by solicitors and insurance companies that are 'bombarding' practice with requests for information. 

Under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect on 25 May, GPs are no longer allowed to charge patients or solicitors when they ask for a copy of patient records.

The BMA GP Committee has said GPs are now taking on the ‘significant’ costs of this practise and has urged GPs to write to their MP highlighting the use of these 'subject access requests'.

In an email to LMCs GPC IT lead Dr Paul Cundy requested that LMCs ask practices to modify and forward a template letter to their local MPs, in a bid to raise awareness of the ‘unintended consequences of the recent adoption of GDPR’.

The template letter said that since 25 May, GP practices have been asked to compile patient records either ‘pro bono or in reality of NHS resources’, instead of being able to charge ‘an average of £50 per request’.

The letter adds that compiling and sending out the records ‘can amount to an hour’ of GP time.

Richard Miller, practice manager at the Great Bentley Surgery in Colchester said: ‘The loss of income is significant in some cases, but as the letter points out, this takes GPs away from caring for sick patients due to the time they have to spend reviewing every page of medical notes before they can be sent.’

Dr Cundy said: 'Since the GDPR changes came in back in May we’ve heard from an increasing number of GPs and practice staff who are rightly concerned with the high level of subject access requests, often from third parties claiming to be acting on behalf of patients.

'By exploiting changes in the law, companies who would once have had to pay out of their own pockets – such as solicitors and insurance firms – are bombarding practices with requests. As a service not covered by the NHS contract it is unfunded, meaning GPs and their teams are effectively working for free, and crucially any time spent compiling what can often be lengthy reports is time taken away from direct patient care.'

This story was first reported by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice.

Please note, the headline and story was amended at 9:30pm on 10 August 2018. It had originally said that the BMA was looking to amend the law, based on Dr Paul Cundy's quotes. The BMA has clarified that this is not BMA policy

Readers' comments (11)

  • I missing something? Surely it should be the responsibility of the GPC / BMA to lobby the Government on this issue.

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  • doctordog.

    Something has to be done about this.
    We can’t do non NHS work for free.

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  • Yet anotherreason to LEAVE as soon as possible

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  • surely we can say they are more than welcome to come into surgery and see the notes but we charge for any paper copies and time for photocopying and postage, if to be sent by email then they must provide a secure website to send it to with written confirmation from the patient that this is ok and any security breaches are the responsibility of the company asking for the request. we do not take responsibility for any comments or opinions in the notes made by third parties. if a medical opinion is required by the patient or company on the information provided we charge for this

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  • We could ALL refuse to do it or alternatively here is a copy of a letter which a colleague came across and we now use when requeats are made


    Thank you for your Subject Access Request (SAR) on behalf of . I note the signed consent of the patient for you to make this request.

    I am writing to clarify the purpose of this SAR and whether the information you are requesting should be more properly requested under the Access to Medical Reports Act (AMRA) 1988, for which a recommended process is available as agreed with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) as below:
    “In July 2015, the use of SARs for insurance purposes was reviewed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who expressed concerns regarding this process and possible Data Protection issues that it could potentially create”.

    Also, clause 181 of the Data Protection Bill (currently in Parliament) will extend the offence of “enforced subject access” to cover medical records.

    I would be grateful if you could confirm whether your request for a SAR is appropriate noting that, as a GDPR compliant Data Controller, the practice should only process requests for the release of personal data that are proportionate and relevant, and not excessive, in relation to the purpose for which this information is required. We may refer this request to the ICO for clarification.

    Yours sincerely,

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  • GP Leaders should not be asking Practices to lobby. They should do the lobbying, that's what they were elected to do. Every damned 'Leader' wants to shoot with the rifle on GP shoulders.

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  • The easy way to bounce this is to provide the patient with online access to their records.

    They are free to print as much as they want or give their solicitor access to do so.

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  • difficulty with just providing the notes with disclaimers is that we are mainly checking the notes for our own and our colleagues' protection ,aren't we, ? - as well as protecting any third parties mentioned in the notes etc

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  • The BMA and the GPC should be doing this work on our behalf and not leave it on us to lobby.
    The SAR is a real pain and distraction from everyday clinical work with no fees to even cover your and staff time.

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  • Why would you want to be a GP ? It is a mess with ever increasing workloads and no pay.

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