To all of our Patients and Carers,
You may be aware that from the 1st of November 2022 NHS England has directed that all patients should have open access to their future medical records. This is to affect everyone in England that is sixteen or over. The instruction is to include any information held by the practice, such as consultation notes, and is to be ‘switched on’ from that date.
Patient safety is at the heart of what we do and it is of upmost importance to us that our usual standards around data control are continued. So far, we do not feel we have had satisfactory assurances from NHS England that this will be the case and our electronic patient record system (EMIS) have determined they will not switch this feature on. We have decided we will act in line with this position and wanted to take this opportunity to communicate this decision.
The Wall House Surgery partners and our team strongly support patient access. We currently provide individuals access to their patient notes, on request, once the record has been redacted of third-party information to prevent data breaches. The sort of breaches we want to prevent include, for example, anyone else named in the record.
We are responsible for the care and support of many vulnerable children and adults for whom this sort of data breach can carry significant risk, up to and including loss of life, particularly in cases of domestic violence and abuse. With the system as it stands there are concerns about what is made visible and how such data could be revealed to other people under coercion or threat. We are also concerned about the process of ensuring data protection and redaction at the point a patient moves to a new surgery. Currently, this is not guaranteed if these changes are enacted. The following link takes you to a BBC Inside Health episode which explains these issues in more detail.
We take our responsibility to protect your data very seriously. Alongside other practices across the country, organisations like the British Medical Association and Domestic violence charities our concerns have been raised with NHS England.
There is likely to be more information and guidance to come out over the next few weeks which we will keep under review. We will work towards a future roll out. We appreciate your understanding that until we have more clarity around the issues expressed in this letter, we cannot determine a time frame. Once we are satisfied that safety will be maintained we are considering starting with individual patient groups, allowing us to take the required time to embed the system in a satisfactory way, in consultation with our patient participation group. We are committed to implementing patient access, safely, as soon as is possible.
In the meantime, please remember you can already access parts of your record through the NHS app on your phone or tablet device. This is free to download and will already allow you to view test results (once they have been approved by your GP) book in for certain types of appointments and importantly request your repeat prescriptions much more efficiently; this is how you will be able to access your record once we have rolled it out so it is worth getting set up now. Please note you need a smart phone which connects to the internet or an internet enabled tablet device. The links below take you to more information on how to do this. You can also ask for help in your local library.
Thank you for your understanding and continued support.
The Management Team and Partners of The Wall House Surgery