GPs 'must be open about sharing patient records'

GPs should inform patients that their personal data could be shared with other care professionals including social workers and schools, the RCGP has said.

Patient records: Caldicott review backs wider sharing of data
Patient records: Caldicott review backs wider sharing of data

RCGP health informatics expert Dr Alan Hassey said GPs should assume they have patient consent to share information with other health professionals where appropriate.

But he said that patients who are most likely to have their data shared - those with complex health needs including those in care homes and those with mental health problems – should be given the opportunity to veto the sharing of their information.

Dr Hassey, a member of an expert panel that reported on the Information Governance Review led by Dame Fiona Caldicott, backed the review's call for more data sharing among frontline care workers.

‘It is OK within the direct care team to assume that you have implied consent to share,' Dr Hassey said.

‘GPs generally will accept it. In the past they have shared information like referrals within a smaller team such as with a district nurse. What Caldicott is saying is that it is also OK to share within a wider team such as local authority organisations, and for children and young people within educational settings.

‘If in doubt ask your patient. The patient doesn’t want there to be any surprises.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said data from GP records will not be shared outside practices against patients' wishes except in emergencies. He said the patient veto would only be overridden in ‘emergency’ or child abuse cases.

The review, published last week, said that patients should be given access to all their hospital, community and social service records within the next decade.

Dr Hassey said: ‘GPs have done the job of being data controllers well for many years. Patients say they want their information shared within care settings. Being a little bit more upfront about consent will be a good thing. Patients do want that and they want to be asked.'

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