Changes to allow GP practice sharing of patient data in response to the Covid-19 pandemic will continue beyond this month, NHS Digital has confirmed.
A national agreement to enable GP Connect across all practices to share patient records was established under a Control of Patient Information (COPI) notice that expired at the end of June.
But NHS Digital said it was working with national stakeholders to ensure that data sharing for direct care via GP Connect continues on a national basis after the Covid COPI has ended.
It added that the temporary policy change made during the pandemic to patients’ summary care record additional information has also been extended by NHS England, whilst a permanent policy change is considered.
NHS Digital said the changes had ‘shown benefits, improved patient safety and been positively received by patients and healthcare professionals’.
There had also been a continual increase in use of both services over the past two years, it added.
Health and care services can be ‘assured and confident that they have the legal basis to continue to provide and use these vital services for direct care purposes beyond 30 June 2022, when the COPI notice expires’, NHS Digital said.
The issue was flagged up in an NHS England primary care bulletin that noted that ‘existing vaccination data flows and any additional information to support immunisation processes will continue beyond the Covid-19 Control of Patient Information (COPI) arrangements that expire today (30 June)’.
It added: ‘The essential processing of such data is covered through the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and Common Law Duty of Confidentiality in relation to direct care.
‘We hope this provides sufficient clarity and assurance as we progress and evolve vital vaccination services.’
It comes as the Government’s new plan for digital health and social care last week announced that social care workers, community midwives and health visitors will be able to access and contribute to patients’ full digital health record by March 2025.
And last month, the Government’s new data strategy said it is considering ‘mandating’ access for patients to their GP records as is done in the United States and that patient access to GP records on the NHS App is again delayed until November.
Meanwhile, an official review has suggested that a copy of patient records should be used for data sharing purposes, with the Government taking the data controller role.
Plans for mass patient data sharing have been mired in controversy, with the lead of a Government-commissioned review admitting in May that trying to re-launch plans last year was ‘a mistake’, before a ‘trusted research environment’ had been guaranteed.