Accessing your GP-held records via the NHS app or NHS website
Up until now, Rycote Practice policy has been to offer access to certain parts of the record upon request. This includes medications, allergies, test results, hospital letters and the list of problems that have been coded in your record. It does not include ‘free text’ used to record the details of conversations – only the actual diagnosis codes. Because this access has become available over several years, we have been able to take the time to check individual records for upsetting or important confidential information and consider how we help individual patients get access in a safe and comfortable way. Access to the entire medical record has always been available on request, but not via an online platform.
As your GP practice, we have been asked to allow access to your full medical record going forward via the NHS app and other accredited apps such as Patient Access (as well as the NHS website) if you have a suitable NHS login. This includes all aspects of your record, including ‘free-text’ – the notes written in consultations you have in the surgery.
Our ‘switch-on’ date is will be this autumn. Currently registered patients who opt in will then be able to see their full record for any new information added after that date. Importantly, nothing will change regarding entries prior to this change. You’ll still be able to see everything you could before, but you won’t be able to see any extra information (for example free-text) for entries made before the switch.
New patients registering after the switch-on date will be able to request access to their full medical record (visible from the date of registration with us).
To be clear, ‘full access’ is only for new entries added to the records after the switch on date (exact date to be confirmed). Older information will be visible in the same, limited way that it has been up until now. If you had a particular need to see all your older medical notes in detail, this is your right but it must be done via a request in person to the surgery – these notes will not be made available online.
Full records access will not currently be available to proxy users (people registered on behalf of patients) or to patients under the age of 16. Moving forward, we will be contacting patients when they turn 16 to reassess their wishes and can make the changes that they request.
Why does this Matter?
Your GP medical record contains consultation notes based on conversations between you, your GP and their team: medicines prescribed to you; all test results including hospital investigations; allergies; vaccines; and your medical conditions along with documents that may have been sent from local hospitals, clinics or other agencies, for example the police. There is likely to be sensitive and personal information within your medical record, some of which you may have forgotten about or be surprised to discover is in your medical records.
We are supportive of providing you with access to your record, but we wish to do this safely and make you aware that this is happening.
As a practice we have taken a decision to restrict access to your record by default but offer a quick and simple mechanism to switch on access should you wish to. This is via an automated text message process. You can also ask for access to be granted in person at the surgery.
You may wish to speak with us first to understand what it is that you will see, and the risks which may be involved in having such confidential data either on your smartphone with the NHS app installed or online if other people might have access to that information through your devices. If you are in a difficult or pressured relationship for example, you may prefer your records to remain accessible only to those treating you, and not be visible online. The Government has been clear that if a patient does not wish to have access then we can switch it off. This is one reason why we are inviting you to opt-in to access for now.
For those who would like access, we are also happy to explain the different levels you might like. Everyone can have access to their medication history and allergies, for example, and will be able to order their repeat prescriptions. It’s also possible to request access to what we call your ‘coded record’ where you can see a list of medical problems and results. You can also request access to the ‘full’ record where you will be able to see everything, including the notes which have been written by doctors, nurses and others involved in your care, at the GP surgery, and elsewhere. Our new policies mean full access from the switch on date this autumn (exact date to be confirmed) will be the default setting, once you have opted in.
It’s important to remember that any notes in your record may, at times, contain information that could be upsetting, especially if they contain news of a serious condition. It can also be a cause for worry seeing results online when it isn’t clear what the results might mean, and no one is available to ask, as can be the case during the evening or at weekends, for example.
Sometimes people with a mental health condition might prefer not to see documents that remind them of difficult times in their life. Letters from mental health teams sometimes go into detail about past events, and great care would be needed in deciding whether you would want to see these letters. It is possible for individual items to be hidden at your request and your GP would be happy to talk about any concerns you may have.
Great care is also needed in case private details might cause harm at home, should people in a difficult or pressured relationship be forced to show their medical record to an abusive partner. Anyone in such a position should make this clear to us at the practice, so we can take steps to keep you safe. This might mean removing access through the NHS app for the time being, or through a careful process where we hide sensitive things. We would be very happy to talk this through with you.
Overall, there is a great deal of flexibility in how we can help to give you the access to your records you want or need. It is possible to restrict access to your whole record, or restrict access to specific information or consultations, which can often be done during a consultation if you request this.
We want to help make your records work for you. You should never feel you cannot come to us about a medical issue for fear it will be visible online. Talk to your doctor if this is a worry for you.
Requesting access – what do I need to do?
For all patients who currently have access to their medical record, most of the process is already done.
If you want to get full access to all new records after October 26th,the only thing you’ll need is to reply to the text message we have sent you confirming you would like full access.
If you do not want access to your records, you don’t need to do anything. The code restricting access will remain active in your records until you tell us otherwise.
If you wish to retain some access but would prefer not to have full access, then please get in touch with us directly, since this requires changes to be made on an individual basis.
If you do not currently have access to your online record but would like it now….
Then you’ll need to take a few extra steps. The easiest way to get access is to create an NHS login through the NHS app. Although you can also access your GP records via the internet on a computer, the first bit is easiest if done through a smartphone. If you don’t have one, you may have a family member or friend you trust who can help you. You can also ask your practice receptionist, but you’ll need some proof of who you are, eg a passport, driving licence or household bill.
If you use the NHS app, you’ll have to set up an account using a unique e-mail address and then ‘authenticate’ yourself to the NHS system to prove you are who you say you are. This will involve confirming your name, date of birth and contact details. The NHS login has several levels of authentication and to gain access to your records you’ll need the highest level of authentication. This generally involves you recording a short video of yourself to prove you are a real person as well as uploading a copy of a suitable identification document. We have digital champions in reception who can help with this step if you are struggling, but we’d ask you to try to sign up to the NHS app yourself.
Once you have suitably authenticated yourself to the NHS app and created your NHS login, you’ll need to contact us to ask for access. We will ask you to complete a form, with your NHS login (this will be the email address you used to sign up) and then you will have a chat about access and your agreement and understanding will be requested. Once you are happy to get online access, your request will be passed to the clinical team to review. It may be that someone from the surgery contacts you to discuss your request if there are any concerns raised so that access can be given safely.
Please be mindful of the risks associated with access and the importance of not sharing passwords or having them stored in your smartphone if you think other people might want to see them without your permission. If you have any concerns, you should explain these to your GP practice team who can guide you.
We’re not sure how many people will ask for new access all at once so there may be a wait, but we will do our best to get you online access as soon as we can.
The form to request access can be downloaded here: