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Practices that already digitised patient records to miss out on funding

EXCLUSIVE Practices that have already digitised their patient records ahead of a national programme will not receive retrospective funding, the BMA has said. 

From April 2020 onwards, under the new five-year GP contract, patients are expected to have digital access to their current and past records, with all information online by 2023.

The BMA said £450m of funding has been allocated over the three years to ensure practices can be paperless.

It added that it is developing a framework with NHS England to ensure ‘safe and consistent digitisation of records’ across the country.

But it has emerged GP practices that have gone ahead with the process before the framework is in place will not be eligible for funding to cover those records already completed.

It is believed they will have lost out on between £2 and £3 of funding per patient, according to BMA estimates of the cost to digitise records.

GPs from Devon LMC raised the issue a the LMCs conference last month, saying they were concerned about practices that had already paid to transfer their paper Lloyd George records online in a bid to free up space in their premises. 

Devon LMC board vice-chair Dr Anthony O’Brien said: ‘Previous assumptions have said that the Government pay for this. I’m concerned over practices, some in the north, some in Devon, some in London, who have already digitalised their notes so they’ve paid up front.

‘Will they be able to claim retrospectively so they’re not financially disadvantaged for being innovative, dynamic and making clinical space and getting rid of the paper?’

In response, BMA GP Committee IT and information governance lead Anu Rao said digitalisation of records has to be done in a ‘consistent’ and ‘safe’ manner and that retrospective funding was not available.

She later told Pulse: ‘Currently NHS England’s position is no retrospective funding for practices who have gone ahead with digitisation.’

But she added: ‘The BMA will try to negotiate this with NHS England’.

She said: ‘Digitalisation of Lloyd’s George records is really important because that’s going to release space within practices and will help with the transfer of records with patients when they move between practices.

‘There’s a national programme and we’re working with [NHS England] to set up a framework of standards that are required for safe and consistent digitalisation of records.

‘Unfortunately, while this has been happening and being negotiated by GPC, some of the practices have already gone ahead locally and started to digitalise their records, or have done it using their own practice funds.’

She continued: ‘That’s a bit unfortunate because that isn’t consistent, not following the national standards that we are developing. We know that in some cases those records have been digitalised in an unsafe manner, potentially, and it creates a bit of variation if you’re not following the national standards.’

Dr Rao said practices should not digitalise their records and wait for the national funding and framework of standards to be launched.

In January, NHS England and the BMA announced that £20m will be added to the global sum each year – for the next three years – to cover GPs when dealing with subject access requests.