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GPs asked to lobby MPs over ‘bombardment’ of patient data requests

GP leaders have asked practices to lead a campaign against the use of data protection laws by solicitors and insurance companies that are ‘bombarding’ practice with requests for information. 

Under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect on 25 May, GPs are no longer allowed to charge patients or solicitors when they ask for a copy of patient records.

The BMA GP Committee has said GPs are now taking on the ‘significant’ costs of this practise and has urged GPs to write to their MP highlighting the use of these ‘subject access requests’.

In an email to LMCs GPC IT lead Dr Paul Cundy requested that LMCs ask practices to modify and forward a template letter to their local MPs, in a bid to raise awareness of the ‘unintended consequences of the recent adoption of GDPR’.

The template letter said that since 25 May, GP practices have been asked to compile patient records either ‘pro bono or in reality of NHS resources’, instead of being able to charge ‘an average of £50 per request’.

The letter adds that compiling and sending out the records ‘can amount to an hour’ of GP time.

Richard Miller, practice manager at the Great Bentley Surgery in Colchester said: ‘The loss of income is significant in some cases, but as the letter points out, this takes GPs away from caring for sick patients due to the time they have to spend reviewing every page of medical notes before they can be sent.’

Dr Cundy said: ‘Since the GDPR changes came in back in May we’ve heard from an increasing number of GPs and practice staff who are rightly concerned with the high level of subject access requests, often from third parties claiming to be acting on behalf of patients.

‘By exploiting changes in the law, companies who would once have had to pay out of their own pockets – such as solicitors and insurance firms – are bombarding practices with requests. As a service not covered by the NHS contract it is unfunded, meaning GPs and their teams are effectively working for free, and crucially any time spent compiling what can often be lengthy reports is time taken away from direct patient care.’

This story was first reported by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice.

Please note, the headline and story was amended at 9:30pm on 10 August 2018. It had originally said that the BMA was looking to amend the law, based on Dr Paul Cundy’s quotes. The BMA has clarified that this is not BMA policy