The BMA’s latest guidance on the issue of medical records, published in July 2016, relates to fees for access and copying. The advice – available in this link – also includes information on exemptions, solicitor requests and deceased patient records.
Guidance on the matter as a whole was first publised in 2008 that sets out the circumstances in which health professionals may receive, and respond to, requests for access to health records.
Information Governance ensures necessary safeguards for, and appropriate use of, patient and personal information. Key areas are information policy for health and social care, IG standards for National Programme for IT systems and development of guidance for NHS and partner organisations.
GP2GP enables patients’ electronic health records to be transferred directly and securely between GP practices. It improves patient care as GPs will usually have full and detailed medical records available to them for a new patient’s first consultation.
Use of medical information and insurance
The BMA has been aware for some time that some insurance companies are obtaining full medical records through the use of Subject Access Requests (SAR) under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), rather than asking for a report from the applicant’s GP, as previously agreed with the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
The BMA was concerned that this practice was potentially a breach of the DPA as disclosure of the full medical record would amount to a disclosure of information which was not relevant for the purpose.
They raised this matter with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who has now written to the ABI to confirm that the right of subject access is not designed to underpin the commercial processes of the life insurance industry. The Commissioner takes the view that the use of subject access rights to access medical records in this way is an abuse of those rights and that such practice is likely to fall foul of the DPA in a number of ways.
In July 2015, the GPC received a reply from the ICO regarding the use of Subject Access Reports under the Data Protection Act rather than requesting GP reports. The ICO has ruled that this use is inappropriate – click on the highlighted link to view this letter.
The BMA has now published guidance on this issue for practices.
Furthermore, Niche Health have developed a system (IGPR) for transmitting reports and records electronically. Legal and General are at the forefront of companies utilising it with others to come. The LMC can see the benefits to practices and insurance companies of this but would advise you to be careful with patient consent and specifically signatures. Presently we would advise you to still obtain a ‘wet ink’ signature that is dated for the release of any information in preference to electronic consent.