The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has published a statement on patient access to their records.

The statement noted that the RCGP was “working closely with NHS England” on plans to give patients automatic access to their future records from 1 November 2022 and stated, “The College has always supported the principle of enhanced access to records and the benefits that Patient Access to Records offers poor conditions for self-monitoring, health outcomes, and patient satisfaction.

It also notes the risks that automation brings and highlights how over the past year the RCGP has “consistently highlighted the importance of practice readiness, safe editing technology and attention to the most vulnerable patients”.

The launch date has been pushed back from December 2021 and NHS England is committed to providing further information and support to practices. “However,” the statement said, “it is clear as we enter the final days before the planned November 1st go-live date that some of our members do not feel ready to implement secure automated patient access.”

Reasons include the workload and workforce crisis that general practice currently faces, which limits the GP’s ability to commit to additional work; the fact that the technical solutions proposed by the College have not yet been fully delivered; and concerns that other parts of the health system are not sufficiently informed about how this will affect their communication with general practice and the implications of automation for GPs as data controllers.

“It is appropriate for practices that feel ready to do so to proceed with expanding access to records, but the College would never encourage practices to proceed with a course of action that they believe would jeopardize patient safety,” the statement continued.

It added that practices should consider the merits of access to records against their own level of readiness and capacity to safely redact sensitive information, and that they should decide whether to delay access to further prepare. Resources are available to help apply opt-out codes from the RCGP GP Online Service Toolkit.

The statement concluded that “practices should not be left alone to deal with these risks and before confirming the go-live, NHS England should carefully consider the timetable in light of the latest information about the situation on the ground.”

The guidance is published on the British Medical Association (BMA) website, in which GPC England sets out its position and informs practices of its view. The guidance covers how and what to consider in terms of editing, clinical safety concerns, legal basis, summary of options and information on next steps. He may be available here.

At an HTN Now event over the summer, we heard from Dr. Osman Bhatti about what patient access means for general practice. To learn more, catch Osman’s session here.

Royal College of General Practitioners releases statement on patient access to records

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