GPs will only be obliged to offer patients basic information from their records by 2015, in a significant row-back on previous promises from the Government of a ‘revolution’ in the way patients access their healthcare information online.
NHS England told Pulse that by April 2015 GP practices in England will only be required to offer patients access to the information contained in their Summary Care Record (SCR) upload.
But managers stressed that this would only be the ‘minimum’ required and that they would be encouraging practices to go further and offer access to further information online to patients from their records in guidance to be published next year.
The GPC said the move came after they raised ‘huge concerns’ about patient safety regarding the Government’s pledge in 2011 as part of their ‘Information Revolution’ to ensure ‘all NHS patients can access their personal GP records online by the end of this Parliament’.
Earlier this year, the RCGP raised concerns over plans to allow access to full patient records, warning of the ‘unintended consequence’ of an increase in queries from patients when allowing access to patient records online.
The patient access online DES – which was due to be expanded in 2014/15 to incentivise practices to enable patients to access their medical records online, including test results and letters, has been scrapped for next year and responsibility for offering online access to information included in the GP contract.
NHS England told Pulse that from next year the GMS contract will be changed so that GP practices will be obliged to ‘offer and promote patient online access to their own medical records’ held by the practice by April 2015.
As a minimum, online records have to cover the data items defined by the SCR upload – i.e. current medications, allergies and any adverse reactions to drugs.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘We’re pleased that by April 2015, all GP practices in England will offer patients online access to their records and transactional services, such as booking appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions.
‘As a minimum, online records have to cover the data items defined by the SCR upload – current medications, allergies and any adverse reactions to drugs. However, we expect that many practices will want to offer access to further information and this will be made easier through the new GP Systems of Choice (GPSoC) contract.
‘We are continuing to work closely with professional bodies, patient and public groups and other key stakeholders, to ensure that this is achieved in a way that delivers meaningful improvements for patients whilst being mindful of the impact on GP practices.
‘We are developing definitive guidance on data sets and technical requirements for record access that will ensure maximum benefits to patients in managing their own health and care. We plan to publish this guidance early in 2014. The recommendation of what data should be accessible will go beyond the contractual minimum defined in the GMS contract.’
GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, said: ‘We all know the Government’s position was open access to patient records by 2015, that was in their mandate. We obviously had huge concerns with regards to patient safety, and other issues, and the negotiated agreement, basically gives patients the ability to see their summary care records online.
‘Obviously they have the ability to see that record in person anyway, my view is: if that record is being uploaded anyway electronically to a central database, via the SPINE, then obviously it makes sense for patients to have access to their own information.’
She stressed: ‘This is just the main bit [of the record], just the drugs and significant history. Nothing else right, nothing else. Just the basic summary and drugs.’
And that: ‘This is just the basic record; anything else would have to be negotiated through formal IT channels.’
‘We’re very clear, we’re there as our patient’s advocates, we’re there as data controllers to protect the confidentiality of our patients, as appropriate. And this is something that – actually – would be quite difficult to argue against, in terms of patient safety. And that this stuff – with consent – is already going out to SPINE.’