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Less than a third of doctors think online access to records is a good idea

Fewer than a third of doctors think that allowing online access to full patient records is a good idea, shows a survey by a medical defence body.

The survey of 850 members of the Medical Protection Society and 1,766 members of the public found 66% of doctors and 73% of the public believed that particularly sensitive information should never be accessible online.

Some 86% of doctors and 80% of the public said they would be concerned for the security of medical records if they become accessible online.

Fewer than 30% of doctors said that allowing patient’s access to their records online was a good idea.

A spokesperson from the MPS said the survey showed that careful consideration should be given as to whether only parts of medical records should be accessible online, with information on particularly sensitive issues such as mental health, sexual health, child protection and counselling automatically redacted from the online record unless patients requested it.

Dr Stephanie Bown, Director of Policy and Communications at MPS, said: ‘MPS has seen firsthand how things can go wrong for patients and doctors when confidential medical information gets into the wrong hands.

‘Patients expect the information they give to their doctor to be kept confidential and if this doesn’t happen, it could cause a breakdown in the relationship of trust.

‘We want a firm commitment from the government that the information strategy will not compromise patient confidentiality – because once the contents of ‘Pandora’s Box’ have been released into the wrong hands, the damage cannot be undone.’

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In a bid to make the NHS more ‘customer friendly’, the former health secretary Andrew Lansley pledged that GPs would have to facilitate patients being able to book appointments, access their records and contact their GP via a secure email system by 2015, as part of the Government’s 10 year Information Strategy.

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC’s information technology subcommittee and a GP in Wimbledon, south London, said the proposals were ‘self-evidently very sensible’ but need to be carefully managed.

He said: ‘The net effect will lower the threshold by which patients will communicate with health services, that inevitably will result in an increase in workload.

‘If general practice suffers what has happened in the States, where there’s a 25% across the board increase in work, primary care will fall apart as it cannot sustain that level of increase.’