As your GP practice, we have been asked to provide you with, no later than 31 October 2023, access to your full medical record going forward via the NHS app (and NHS website) if you have a suitable NHS login.

Your GP medical record contains consultation notes based on conversations between you, your GP and their team: medicines prescribed to you; test results; allergies; vaccines; and your medical conditions along with documents that may have been sent from local hospitals, clinics or other agencies, eg the police. There is likely to be sensitive and personal information within your medical record.

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 so that you can opt out, if you so wish. 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, with them not appearing on your smartphone or online. Government has been clear that if a patient does not wish to have access, then we can deactivate it. This is one reason why we have asked if you wish to opt out, or have it switched off for the time being.

There is no way for anyone under the age of 13 years old to have an NHS login so we cannot grant access to records to them. Special approval, following assessment by a GP is needed for those between 13 and 16 years old and we would only suggest doing this in very limited circumstances, if you have significant health problems, for example. It is straightforward to grant access to parents/guardians, via their NHS logins, for requesting medications/booking appointments. This limited but potentially useful access significantly reduces the risk of inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information. We may need to contact you and/or your child before granting this.

For those who would like access, we are 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.

It’s important to remember that these documents 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. We would always try to withhold access to any potentially upsetting information in your records but this cannot be guaranteed.

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. In this case, we would recommend removing access through the NHS app for the time being, or through a careful process where we hide sensitive things, this approach would come with much higher risks, however. We would talk this through with you if you wished to have access.

You may have concerns about the security of your records, should online access be activated. We have not been provided with information on the security measures which are being put in place and have no control over them. As far as we know, GPs have not been involved in it’s development or testing. No warranties have been given by NHS England or the Department of Health and Social Care. It is impossible, therefore, to say how significant the risk of malicious third parties accessing your records is or for us to provide you with reassurance on this.

Requesting access – what do I need to do?

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, who may be able to arrange for you to come in for some help with this. You’ll need photographic proof of who you are, eg a passport or driving licence as well as proof of your address, eg a 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.

Once you have suitably authenticated yourself to the NHS app and created your NHS login you can approach your practice and ask for access, being 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.

Once you have read this information, and if you wish to have access, you will need to complete the Questionnaire which has been sent to you via a text message.

Your request will be passed to the clinical team to review. It may be that the practice wishes to contact you to discuss your request if we have concerns. This is so that access can be given safely, or potentially withheld if the risks are too high.

We’re not sure how many people will ask for 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