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GPs should use repeat prescriptions to inform patients about, says new guidance

GPs should include information about the Government’s extractions programme in patient’s repeat prescriptions and through patient newsletters, new guidance has recommended.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre guidance, issued to practices last week, said that GPs must be ‘proactive’ in informing patients about the controversial programme, which will involve patient data being sent to various healthcare bodies.

It also reminded practices that they are legally required to disclose data to the HSCIC for the programme unless an individual patient has objected.

The HSCIC listed a series of ways that GPs can inform patients about the programme, including providing information to patients at reception or by clinical staff, or in visible locations such as the waiting area and washrooms.

Another suggestion was to ‘include information with repeat prescriptions’, while it also recommended healthcare staff ‘respond to queries raised by patients during consultations’ and ‘use existing communication channels such as GP practice newsletters to provide information’.

It added: ‘The Information Commissioner’s Office has been clear that for GP practices to meet their fair processing obligations they need to be proactive in raising awareness with their patients.

‘It is important that GP practices understand that the materials they have been provided with are actively communicated to patients and that patients can easily access the information.’

Earlier this month, NHS England backtracked on its insistence that GP practices were solely responsible for informing patients about the programme and announced a £2m publicity campaign on their plans to extract and share confidential data next year.