GP practices have already experienced ‘a reduction in administrative burdens’ after granting patients online access to records, NHS England has claimed.
Practices in England have to offer automatic access to prospective records via the NHS App by 31 October, as per the changes to the GP contract, following several delays.
However the BMA’s GP Committee still has patient safety concerns regarding the rollout.
In a new blog, posted by NHS England, national director for primary care Dr Amanda Doyle and national director of transformation Dr Timothy Ferris said early-adopter practices have experienced benefits including a reduction in calls from patients.
It said: ‘Our early adopter GP practices report the number of subject access requests (SAR) has fallen, there is less time spent handling patient enquiries over the phone, and there is a reduction in administrative burdens.
‘This feedback comes from our colleagues in GP practices, representing a cross section of location, deprivation levels and list size.
‘The real benefits come when patients are routinely using record access via the NHS App at times best suited to them, and when colleagues naturally signposting patients to their records to answer their questions – for instance on whether a test result is available.’
NHS England also said that while early adopters, 16 sites across the country, have not been able to provide a precise figure as to the fall in calls under certain categories, one practice has estimated that ‘potentially one third of calls have been prevented’.
The blog also highlighted ongoing concerns regarding records access expressed by GP leaders.
Some practices and representative organisations have expressed concerns around ensuring that vulnerable and at-risk patients don’t see something that could be harmful to them,’ it said.
The BMA had even considered a legal challenge over the imposed contractual requirement to offer patients access to prospective records but it abandoned plans last month due to lack of financial resources and legal merit.
Its concerns include implications for safety of vulnerable patients having full record access and of the projected workload that GPs would take on to implement the programmes.
However, the NHS England blog said: ‘Last year, we carried out an extensive clinical safety review to make sure any risks to patients could be mitigated.
‘We have developed strong safeguarding processes, have published this support online and we have not had reports of any adverse safeguarding issues or increases in workload.’
The latest update from the GPC said it still believes ‘there are patient safety and information governance concerns that remain, and which need to be addressed’.
‘In September, we will publish comprehensive advice and guidance for all practices on this issue and will continue to set out concerns and solutions to government ministers,’ it added.
The GPC also said it wished to ‘reassure practices that they have time to consider matters, and that contractors do not need to make any quick decisions before our guidance has been published’.
There is no central automatic switch-on and that the contract specifically requires practices to configure their systems to allow patients to access online information entered onto their medical record.
And last month NHS England warned that a third of GP practices are not yet ready to provide prospective records access to patients, as they ‘still have the incorrect settings’.
Patients were initially set to be given automatic access to their prospective patient records through the NHS app from 1 November last year – starting with EMIS and TPP, and with other smaller suppliers to follow at a later date.
But in October last year, suppliers confirmed they would not yet switch on automatic patient access to their records via the NHS app due to safeguarding concerns.
In May, a London ICB expressly advised GP practices not to switch on automatic patient access to prospective records ahead of the 31 October deadline.