The two main suppliers of GP IT systems – EMIS and TPP – have confirmed they will not switch on automatic patient access to their records via the NHS app tomorrow.
Patients were set to be given automatic access to their prospective patient records through the NHS app from 1 November – starting with EMIS and TPP, and with other smaller suppliers to follow at a later date.
However, the RCGP has advised GP practices to consider opting patients out of the programme on the grounds of patient safety.
And the BMA last week suggested that system suppliers who turn on automatic patient access to their records without the explicit consent of practices may be acting illegally.
In order to roll out access through the NHS app, IT suppliers will have to allow this through practices’ systems.
But EMIS said on Saturday that it ‘will not be making any practice-level system changes’ on the planned go-live date.
It said this comes as ‘many’ GP practices have asked it not to switch on automatic patient access to their records ‘due to GDPR and/or patient safety concerns’.
In a post on an EMIS Facebook group seen by Pulse, country director for England at EMIS Group plc Karen Bonnett said: ‘We have received requests from many GP practices asking us not to make the system change due to GDPR and/or patient safety concerns.
‘This is a complex issue and we have been in constructive dialogue with NHSE, over the past few days, on an appropriate way forward.’
She added: ‘We continue to be in dialogue on these matters and we can confirm that we will NOT be making any practice-level system changes to EMIS Web until we have a clear path forward.
‘We will continue to update you as we know more.’
TPP (SystmOne) said it will take the same stance, in a statement posted today on an internal daily noticeboard for TPP practices, seen by Pulse.
It said that it too ‘will not be making any practice-level system changes to SystmOne’ until it has ‘a clear path forward’.
It added: ‘For all stakeholders in this process, patient safety and compliance with GDPR are important priorities.’
TPP has also received ‘many’ practice requests not to go ahead, with lots saying that ‘they require more time to be ready for the proposed change’, it added.
The BMA’s GP Committee for England said it was ‘pleased’ with the news.
Deputy chair Dr David Wrigley said: ‘Patient safety is at the heart of what we do, which is why any changes to the system – particularly default ones – should be carefully thought through.
‘We hope that following EMIS and TPP’s decision, NHS England will now also rethink how this roll-out is going to work, and ensure that every practice is given the time and resources it needs to properly prepare in the interests of both patients and practices, especially at a time of intense pressure on general practice. We remain keen to engage with NHS England on this project going forward.
‘In the meantime, the BMA is compiling new guidance for practices on what to do going forward and in support of patients.’
Meanwhile, one local commissioner has recommended that practices apply an ‘opt-in’ approach to automatic records access following a ‘clinical safety review’.
In an email sent to practices on Friday, North Central London integrated care board (NCL ICB) said that its ‘clinical safety report’ concluded that ‘the safest option is to enact an opt-in solution’.
It added: ‘When patients then request access, you will then have the opportunity to review records for any content that may cause harm to the patient or disclose third-party information.’
The ICB said local practices should take ‘immediate action’ to allow an opt-in process and ‘prevent global access being automatically activated’ by applying a SNOMED code to the full practice list before 1 November.
NCL ICB is ‘confident’ that this decision is ‘in keeping’ with practices’ contractual obligations, it added.
However, practices will not currently need to take this action if all suppliers delay the scheme’s launch.
NCL ICB said the principle of records access is ‘a good thing’ and that it will issue ‘further guidance’ to practices ‘in the next few weeks’ about how it can be rolled out ‘in a safe way that is manageable in primary care and protects our most vulnerable patients’.
The BMA had previously suggested that an opt-in system might be the ‘safest and most effective’ way to roll out patient access to their records.
The road to prospective records access so far
NHS Digital had first intended for patients whose practices use TPP to be first to have access to new entries in their GP notes through the NHS app from December 2021 – with EMIS practices to follow this year.
But the launch date was delayed until April 2022 for both systems, after the BMA wrote to NHSX expressing its concerns about the timing of the rollout.
Meanwhile, Pulse revealed earlier this month that NHS England plans to enable patients to request their historic GP records through the NHS App from next year, as well as prospective records access.