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GPs increasingly requesting advice about CQC’s powers to access patient records

GPs are increasingly concerned about whether they should let the CQC access their patients’ records on inspections, a medical defence body has revealed.

The Medical Protection Society said GPs have been contacting them expressing concern about ‘patient confidentiality’, and seeking advice on their ‘professional obligations’ to co-operate with the CQC on the new GP inspections.

Many GPs are still unaware of the CQC’s powers to access the patient medical records and obtain patient and carer contact details without consent, MPS said.

It comes as Pulse recently revealed that the CQC will have the power to review patient medical records without their consent ‘to assess the quality of care provided by the practice’, as part of the new style GP inspection regime officially rolled out in October.

The CQC has the powers to access patient medical records under Health and Social Care Act 2008, however the regulator has said it will allow GPs to anonymise the records.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, medicolegal adviser at MPS, said: ‘Members have been calling our advice line to ask if they should allow CQC inspectors access to patient records and other identifying information.

‘Healthcare professionals must co-operate with inspections and should be aware that the CQC can inspect and take copies of medical records to perform their regulatory function without explicit consent from patients. The Health and Social Care Act 2008 provides the statutory basis for this power.

‘MPS advises its members that they do not need to obtain specific consent from patients and they can be reassured that inspectors must keep the information confidential, as they have a legal duty to do so.’

Previously speaking about the regulator’s powers to access patient records, Professor Nigel Sparrow, senior national GP advisor at the CQC told Pulse: ‘The main purpose of the review of medical records is to assess the quality of care provided by the practice. It is not to assess the individual clinician. In routine inspections, the GP or nurse specialist advisor will look at the medical records.

‘Although the 2008 Health and Social Care Act does not require this, our view is that in most cases it is appropriate for the clinicians on the team to lead this aspect of the inspection. This will usually be the case but where inspection teams have concerns about a practice it may be necessary for any of the inspectors to access medical records or to see a medical record.’

Pulse recently reported that GP practices that are placed in CQC ‘special measures’ will have to pay half the costs of essential support, which will cost them up £5,000.