Accelerated Citizen Access to GP Data

The RCGP has always been clear that we are supportive of the principles of expanding patients’ access to their GP records and the benefits that such access offers in improving self-management opportunities, health outcomes and patient experience.

We are committed to working to support patients to access and make best use of their GP records. However, patient access to their records is not without risk and we have a responsibility to represent our most vulnerable patients in highlighting the associated safeguarding risks. These include the risk of possible harm to patients or third parties and to the clinician-patient relationship due to error, coercion or missed opportunities for appropriate clinical oversight and communication.

NHS England and Improvement's (NHSEI) accelerated citizen access to GP data programme plans to allow patients to have automatic access to their records via the NHS and other patient facing apps. Such automation removes a level of clinical oversight and exacerbates the safeguarding risks. The programme has specific equalities and health inequalities implications and poses particular risks for vulnerable groups including victims and survivors of domestic abuse, under-18s and those living with intellectual and physical disabilities. As such this programme must be implemented with care, ensuring sufficient time for training and communication.

The RCGP is in the process of updating its patient online toolkit to provide guidance on the ways some of the risks associated with this programme might be mitigated. This work is due for completion at the end of March.

We are highly concerned that the current timeline of April 2022, does not allow for the necessary time and care to be taken. This week, the RCGP has written to the Secretary of State to set out these concerns and to request a minimum of an eight-week delay to ensure guidance can be properly rolled out. We have also suggested that the most appropriate course of action would be a longer delay to allow time for piloting and a more gradual implementation approach to be adopted.

We will continue to work closely with NHSEI to address the implications of this programme for our most vulnerable patients and ensure appropriate communication and guidance across the health service. 

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.