A police force has reached out to GP practices in its region to ask them not to charge a fee for producing medical reports about their patients.
In a letter to GP practices and CCGs across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, sent last month, deputy chief constable Sara Glen raised concerns about recent BMA guidance to practices on medical record requests from the police.
The letter, seen by Pulse, said the force does not believe public sector organisations should be charging one another for services when both are facing funding cuts.
The latest BMA guidance, published in June, said practices were entitled to charge a fee set at their discretion where the disclosure request was made with patient consent or on public interest grounds, and there was no court order or warrant.
But DCC Glen’s letter said: ‘I do not believe that in the current climate of reducing budgets and increasing joint working across the public sector, one organisation should be charging another.
‘This is counterproductive and could lead to a position where public services retract inwards instead of working smarter together.’
According to DCC Glen this comes as her constabulary is ‘the second lowest funded force in England and Wales’, and ‘a further negative impact on a tight financial position would lead to operational impacts on service delivery’.
She concluded: ‘I would strongly suggest that we maintain the status quo in that there is no charge for access to GP medical records, when the appropriate disclosure test is met.’
But, in response to the letter, BMA Professional Fees Committee chair Dr Peter Holden told Pulse: ‘What the deputy chief doesn’t realise is GPs are not public sector, this is not coming off a departmental budget, this is coming straight out of my pocket.
‘The fact that she has no budget is not my problem. GPs have no obligation to do it, and whilst I’m always happy to help a police officer in the exercise of the duty, I do not see why I have got to do it at my personal expense.’
DCC Glen’s letter further challenged BMA guidance on where disclosure of a patient’s medical details is appropriate.
The guidance says that in the case of ‘serious crime’, such as murder, rape and kidnapping, practices should release information, however it adds the requent should be signed off by a senior officer.
DCC Glen said the serious crime tag on its own was a ‘qualifier to release medical records’, but Dr Holden told Pulse the matter remains part of ongoing negotiations with the National Police Chiefs’ Council about medical records disclosure.
He added: ‘This is not the profession wanting to be awkward but we have enough to do in the day without having to fill in a medical report for every bobby that wants one.’
Unresourced requests for information to GPs by police has been a fraught issue over the past year, following new regulations brought in last year saying GPs had to provide their medical opinion on the mental suitability of prospective gun licensees.
GP of all trades
The GP Forward View pledged to reduce bureaucracy for overworked GP practices, but GPs can be forgiven for feeling little progress is being made.
This included a ban on hospitals piling non-contractual work on practices, however to date not a single sanction has been issued for reported breaches.
At the same time, GMC suggested GPs should take on specialist gender dysphoria care, whilst NHS England recently provoked GP ire by suggesting practices could lead fire safety checks for patients in high-rise buildings.
Another example included 2015 NICE guidance suggesting GPs were ideally placed to conduct temperature checks in elderly patients’ homes