Exclusive A GP practice has been told it does not have to post medical records to a solicitor, after a judge ruled in its favour.
In a recent court case, the judge ruled that the practice only needed to make medical records available to patients at reception and should not be forced to post the records.
Some experts have said this will have implications for GP practices who receive subject access requests and could help surgeries save hundreds of pounds a month.
It follows the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation in May 2018, which meant that practices were no longer able to charge a fee for producing copies of patient notes, but instead under a subject access request, patients could request them for free.
In Major v Darren Jackson & Ors, solicitor firm Fletchers took Barwell and Hollycroft Medical Centres in Leicestershire to court for not posting the medical records of their client – the patient – to them directly.
However, the judge ruled that the practice had fulfilled their obligations by making the records available for the patient to collect at the practice’s reception and that a practice who does this should not be subjected to applications for pre-action disclosure – a court order to share information with another party.
Principle associate at Mills & Reeve LLP, who represented the practice, Claire Williams, said: ‘Our clients fulfilled their GDPR obligations, they acted in line with the ICO’s guidance and this was a wholly unwarranted attempt to make them incur costs and risk that they had no need to incur.’
On what this means for practices, she said: ‘Essentially, if GPs make the patient’s records available for the patient to collect from reception, then solicitors can no longer use this method to attempt to force the doctors to incur the costs and expense – and the additional risk – that is incurred from couriering them anywhere.
‘There will be situations where they do have to do a bit more. For example, if you had a paraplegic because of course they can’t just wander in and collect them.’
Locum GP, Dr Trefor Roscoe, said this new ruling would save GP time and money as practices get hundreds of requests a year.
He said: ‘I’m working at a practice as a locum at the moment which has 5,000 patients and they get about 10 requests a week for copies of records. They’re not all to do with legal cases, but a lot of them are.
‘This is saving every practice around the country hundreds of pounds every week and a lot of hassle.’
Dr Neil Bhatia, GP and IT lead at Oakley Health Group, said his practice which has around 30,000 patients on its list has been getting between 15 and 20 subject access requests for medical records per month.
He said: ‘Since May last year we’ve been inundated with subject access requests since they removed the cost implications. Everybody – not just solicitors, but criminal compensation board, the army, every organization DWP, every organization you can think of is using this as a way of getting information free of charge. Previously there was a fee.
‘We’ve been inundated with these and the guidelines were quite strict – you only had a month to produce these and [if you don’t meet the deadline] there’s always a possibility of monetary penalties.’
Fletchers has been approached for comment.