GPs have been warned that patient data hidden in electronic records is likely to be revealed when records are transferred via GP2GP or on paper.

The BMA’s General Practitioner Committee said GP clinical systems have differing functionality to enable GPs to restrict access to elements of patients’ records if patients request it, either to certain groups of staff, to clinicians only or to a particular clinician.

However the GPC is now warning GPs that they will need to inform patients who want elements of their electronic record to be kept confidential that the information is not likely to remain hidden when the record is transferred to another system, either electronically or via traditional paper transfer.

Dr Grant Ingrams, co-chair of the BMA and RCGP’s IT Committee, told EHI Primary Care that it was a potential problem that GPs needed to be aware of rather than a major concern.

He added: “It’s a very rare circumstance for someone to ask you to restrict access – for instance I’ve only ever had one patient do that but its something that practices have used in the past, for instance if they have staff registered at the practice, although that is not supposed to happen now.”

Dr Ingrams said if GPs have used such functionality or use it in the future they will need to tell the patient that their information will not automatically be restricted if they move practice and patients will need to speak to the practice they are moving to.

Dr Ingrams said more patients were likely to want to restrict access to some information as data sharing became more widespread and the long term aim was to develop sealed envelope functionality that would be interoperable between systems.