DoH report demands changes to GMS contract to guard patient data

Exclusive - DoH wants contract change because GPs 'pose high risk'

The GMS contract should be rewritten because GPs cannot be trusted to look after patient data, ministers believe.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that DoH officials think that independent contractors such as GPs pose a high risk of 'breaches of confidentiality or data losses'.

One document, which is a report on the government's Information Governance Assurance Programme, that concluded last August, says that health ministers have asked officials to 'explore' ways of strengthening 'information governance' requirements of the GP contract.

'Options for changes to the GMS contract should be considered at the earliest available opportunity,' it recommends.

But it stresses that changing the contract is 'complex and political', and says it 'remains a long-term goal'.

Professor Ross Anderson, chairman of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said that the move was a 'transparent ploy in order to increase the number of GPs using hosted systems'.

Such systems involve storing data in centralised 'server farms', rather than on practice computers themselves. If all patient records were stored on such services, it would be easier for officials to gain access to such information, he said.

'The DoH believes that if it can control records it can break professional autonomy,' he added.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who speaks on IT for the GPC, said that GPs were already bound by the Information Governance Statement of Compliance, and by their duty to their patients.

'So we do not see any value in making changes to the contract.' The issue is not currently under negotiation, he said.

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