NHS England could become a co-data controller of patient records in order to help relieve individual GP liability.
NHS England’s transformation director, Dr Tim Ferris told a House of Lords select committee yesterday that that current legislation in which individual physicians are liable for ownership of patient data ‘may no longer be fit for purpose’.
Dr Ferris, who has a history of working as a GP in Boston, USA, said: ‘If I were a GP in this country… if I had legal liability for the exchange of data, I would be worried about that.’
Speaking to the House of Lords Integration of Primary and Community Care Committee in a session exploring what NHS England leadership are doing to better facilitate integration within the wider health service, he also highlighted how Scotland has resolved this issue by making NHS Scotland co-data controller, giving the organisation co-joint ownership of the data and therefore also co-ownership of the liabilities.
‘That removes the liability associated with the use of the data from the individual physician. There are other ways of approaching this problem but that is one of the ways of approaching it,’ Dr Ferris said.
And he endorsed the committee looking at ways to relieve GPs of this sole responsibility for data protection and data controller status, describing it as a ‘significant challenge that needs to be overcome’.
‘Let’s look at all of the options, legislative being one of them,’ he said.
He added: ‘I don’t think it’s necessary to move data all to one place. It is unnecessary now with processing speeds and memory capabilities. Leave the data in its secure and local location and use only the parts of it that are important for the intended use…
‘It’s a red herring to say the only way to do this is to move all the data centrally. I think we can accomplish everything we need leaving the data more or less locally… the important thing is that the people who access that data fulfil all the [privacy] rules.’
The GP contract imposition for 2023/24 stipulated that GP practices need to offer automatic access to prospective patient records via the NHS App by 31 October 2023 however the BMA’s GP Committee for England is considering a legal challenge given their ‘current and ongoing concerns’.