The two senior GP representatives in the UK are writing to GP practices to outline “the encouraging response” they have received from Connecting for Health (CfH) over concerns about security issues with the personal demographic service (PDS).
The letter from Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee and Dr Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of General practitioners, accompanies a booklet on the PDS from CfH which is due to be sent out to all practices very shortly.
The letter also welcomes CfH plans to restructure its governance bodies overseeing the NHS Care Records Service to ensure that clinical “sign off” is required before new applications are released into practice.
The two GPs had written to CfH in February to demand reassurances on patient confidentiality after it emerged that non-clinical staff can access and change patient details held on the PDS (link: http://www.ehiprimarycare.com/news/item.cfm?ID=1690).
In the letter to GP practices the doctors refer to the concerns and say “the encouraging response and resultant collaborative work between the profession and NHS Connecting for Health has gone a good way towards starting to resolve these.”
The GPs say part of that collaborative work has been the production of the booklet which they say outlines the purpose and need for a PDS and gives reassurance that this will not contain clinical information.
Dr Lakhani said that information continuity was an issue of considerable importance to patients and that the RCGP supported the development of appropriate shared records.
In a statement to EHI Primary Care he said: “To this end we have been pleased with the dialogue we have had with ministers and Connecting for Health, and the improvements made in the arrangements as a result. These include information to the profession and stronger external arrangements for information governance.”
The letter underlines that there are still important issues relating to the sharing of demographic information and adds “we must remain vigilant and aware of our responsibilities within general practice.”
The letter adds: “Administrative staff who have permission to use Choose and Book will have access to the demographic information of a large number of patients.
We are pleased to hear that joint work is underway looking into a number of possible mechanisms to limit and appropriately focus these access rights whilst still allowing patients to be reliably identified, regardless of where they present for healthcare.”
One of the concerns raised over the security of the PDS was that any staff with access to the PDS can change the consent flag on the patient’s record. Drs Meldrum and Lakhani say they are in discussion with CfH to ensure that only appropriate and adequately trained professionals can alter the consent for sharing flag.
A spokesperson for CfH told EHI Primary Care that the booklet on the PDS would be ready for distribution in the near future and a copy would also be posted on the CfH website.