GP practices which have opted their patients out of automatic NHS app records access will still see the functionality switched on later this month, NHS England has confirmed.
Practices which meet a deadline of opting out by 5pm on 4 November by asking their system supplier not to enable the functionality will see the delay applied.
Practices which have done nothing will see the introduction of the ‘citizen access’ programme earlier, in a phased manner.
It follows chaos and confusion over the scheme, which was due to enable all patients to view their prospective GP record via the NHS app from yesterday.
Both EMIS and TPP had said in recent days they would not be making any practice-level system changes, after ‘requests from many GP practices’ with ‘GDPR and/or patient safety concerns’.
But Pulse yesterday revealed that the BMA had learned that the functionality would be switched on this month after all, despite the assurances otherwise.
This plan was also mentioned in brief in Parliament by health secretary Steve Barclay.
NHS England remained silent on the issue yesterday, leaving the profession in the dark about what action they would need to take.
But guidance updated last night revealed that NHS England has instructed EMIS and TPP to ‘pause’ the rollout until the end of the month for practices that ask them to do so by a set deadline.
NHS England said: ‘For those practices that ask EMIS and TPP by 5pm on 4 November 2022 to not enable the change, we have instructed both suppliers to pause.
‘These practices must use this time to engage with their local commissioners should they need additional support and agree plans to prepare before their systems are automatically enabled from 30 November 2022.’
All practices that do not meet the deadline will have the change introduced ‘in a phased way’, it added.
It said: ‘For all other practices that will not have informed EMIS and TPP to pause by 5pm on 4 November we will continue to work with EMIS and TPP to implement the change as planned, with prospective data entered into patient records from 1 November 2022 automatically becoming visible in a phased way.’
However, NHS England added that all practices ‘can locally disable the functionality’ and/ or ‘deny individual patient access’ if they ‘deem such action necessary’.
They can do this by:
- Adding exclusion SNOMED codes to individual patients’ records or those of groups of ‘at-risk patients’ ahead of the switch on;
- Amending an ‘individual patient configuration’ or redact the records after the switch on;
- Updating the practices’ organisational settings to ‘disable the record access functionality’;
- Disabling access to ‘components of the record that may be of concern’ such as documents, ‘depending on the clinical system being used’
Speaking during health questions in Parliament yesterday, health secretary Steve Barclay said that ‘all GP practices will soon be able to automatically provide patients aged 16 and over with access to the latest information in their health records via the NHS app’.
He added: ‘We are switching on that ability from today in a process that we expect to be completed by the end of this month and that is an important milestone for patient empowerment and part of a process that is seeing patients play an even more active role in managing their health and care’.
Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of GPC England at the BMA, said: ‘These day-by-day changes to the Citizens’ Access programme are incredibly concerning. It is absolutely not the way to handle such an important issue. The Health Secretary’s announcement has brought little clarity to the situation, and practices are understandably worried about what this means for them and their patients.
‘Fundamentally, the issue of safety remains. Safety for patients and safety for practices. The profession, as well as the BMA, has repeatedly raised concerns that practices that are not yet ready, need time to properly prepare and carefully review data in order to protect patients.
‘We need safe deployment when it comes to a system-wide change like this, not just high-level announcements with no detail for those actually involved in doing it. Implementing technical changes within live clinical environments in a way that could negatively impact patients’ lives is unacceptable. We urge NHS England to not only communicate, in detail, with the profession, about what is happening, but also to seriously reconsider the patient safety implications of hurrying out a programme like this.
‘In the meantime, the BMA is committed to supporting practices and has compiled guidance on what to do.’
The BMA has advised practices to bulk opt-out patients out of the automatic access until sufficient safety checks are completed.