The patient access to records plan is upsetting practices – and it’s all for nothing, says Dr Tony Copperfield
I do love a coincidence. And it’s impossible to ignore the fact that practices up and down the land are facing the biggest logistical nightmare in living memory at precisely the same moment that Matt Hancock is announced as a contestant on I’m A Celebrity… (aka I’m No Longer A Credible Politician… Get Me Out Of The House Of Commons).
We’ve all known about the impending ‘accelerated access to GP-held patient records’ plan for ages, and the reasons we haven’t anticipated/planned for/embraced it are pretty much the same reasons we don’t normally anticipate/plan for/embrace the fact that we’re all going to die some time. I won’t trot out the horrors this initiative holds in store, because they’ve been well aired already.
But there is a very basic question worth posing: why is open access needed at all? The usual spin-bollocks is that it’s about transparency and empowerment. This might make sense if patient records were for patients, but, bluntly, they’re not, in the same way that it might be transparent and empowering for passengers to have access to the pilot’s levers and controls mid-flight, but that doesn’t make it a great idea.
And this isn’t professional paternalism/maternalism, it’s just an acknowledgement that patient records aren’t designed to be a tool for communicating with patients – they’re the way we keep records, hypothesise, deal with uncertainty, flag, share technical data with colleagues and so on. The communication bit we do elsewhere in something called a ‘consultation’. So maybe we can stop doing those now and solve the appointment crisis overnight.
Whatever. The ‘why’ question takes us neatly back to Mr Hancock. I have no idea if accelerated access to GP-held patient records was specifically his idea, but it certainly sits comfortably with the whole thrust of his digital, technologically enhanced vision for the future of primary care. Now this bombshell has GPs paralysed with anxiety, practice managers in meltdown and admin staff at the sharp end of patient dysfunction and dissatisfaction. All for nothing.
No wonder he’s buggering off to Australia. I’m not a regular viewer, but I believe he might have to eat a kangaroo’s penis. If those roles were reversed, I’d watch.
Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here