Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Primary care (primary care trusts and GP surgeries) are not part of the NHS
GPs will get extra access to patients’ medical records under a settlement agreed by NHS England with hundreds of families.
A new system will also be built to ensure GPs have access to text messages and alerts when new preventative care comes up.
The confidential settlement means GPs won’t lose access to the records of patients using emergency departments for short-term admissions.
The GPs will also get to opt out of having their own safeguarding arrangements reviewed.
The settlement sees GPs sign confidential agreements with NHS England, in which they agree to give “full, informed consent” for data to be shared between medical services and between general practice.
The points made by GPs to NHS England include increased access to records, not being obliged to have a thorough home safety check, being allowed to opt out of having their own safeguarding arrangements reviewed, to have home safety checks run on their practices three times a year and for their practices to have safeguards to ensure data is well protected.
The settlement was put forward by NHS England in August last year, following concerns from the Care Quality Commission about people having access to their medical records, which could be used to identify and harass them.
In the settlement, NHS England agrees that general practice trusts – which are run by GPs – will be able to “guarantee that data can only be disclosed if such access is requested by a patient or a patient’s care team”.
No-one involved in the negotiations was speaking to the media on Monday but the agreement says they will work to make sure the NHS recognises its obligations to ensure patients have “guaranteed access to their records for the reasons they believe should be relevant and take account of the historic and current data protection frameworks in a responsible and straightforward way”.
“NHS England will ensure these requirements are reflected in the future general practice organisational structure, training and standards, as appropriate,” it said.
Under the GPs are now able to opt out of having a follow-up meeting between them and NHS England to check on data sets stored in their practice and have their safeguarding procedures reviewed.
The agreements were made in secret by NHS England and the General Medical Council (GMC) ahead of a legal case involving the GMC and 12 doctors, including one of the GPs.
The documents were held in secret after the lawyers representing the GMC disagreed with the legality of NHS England’s proposal.
Papers seen by the BBC show a GMC tribunal raised concerns about a “big step backwards” in patient privacy as it referred to a “clear breach” of the Data Protection Act (DPA) on the Government’s part.
NHS England confirmed it had quietly settled the case.
In response to the settlement on Monday, former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the BBC it was a step in the right direction and GPs would now have more flexibility in how they manage their workload.
But Mr Lansley said he felt the NHS had failed to get a handle on “concerned and angry families”.
He added that in cases where patients are physically taken to a GP practice, it would be up to the GMC to decide on the medical practitioner’s fitness to practise.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The NHS had offered GPs assurances of data security
The GMC said it needed more time to assess the agreement.
Dr Jenny Jones, Chair of the Patients Association, said the agreements would be a welcome development but they wouldn’t prevent large numbers of families being misinformed by relatives.
She called for more help for families with concerns over the practice, providing support with visiting hours and providing a GP at different times to check their family’s health.