GPs have as much time as they think reasonable to upload patient data to the Summary Care Records database, says...
guidance which has been issued to London's GP practices.
It means that GPs who oppose care records could take years to upload patient information, making it less likely that clinicians accessing the system would find the summary records of patents they are treating in emergencies in the meantime.
The guidance from the Londonwide Local Medical Committees - the professional voice of London's GP Practices - has been issued with the support of NHS Connecting for Health, which runs Summary Care Records.
It says NHS Connecting for Health has "assured us there is no coercion" on when GPs should upload patient records.
But some GPs are reluctant to upload medical data unless their patients have given their specific consent. They may delay posting records to the care record system under the new guidelines.
The government has rejected seeking consent from patients to upload records. Ministers want GPs to upload patient records unless patients have put their signature on an "opt-out" form.
Primary care trusts are sending millions of patients information packs on the benefits of having their GP-held medical information on allergies, adverse drug reactions and allergies uploaded to a central Oracle database known as the NHS data spine. Summary Care Records are held on a BT-run database.
Patients have a minimum of three months to opt out. If they do nothing their records may be uploaded by their GP Practice at any time after three months. Patients can change their minds and opt out after the upload has taken place, in which case the record will be deleted unless it has already been accessed outside the GP Practice.
If that has happened, the patient's summary record will remain on the central database - even if the patient opts out - but will inaccessible except for legal reasons.
The guidance from the Londonwide Local Medical Committees tells GPs that it is open to them not to participate at all in Summary Care Records.
If GP practices do take part, they should not wait an unreasonably long time to upload confidential records on their patients to the NHS spine, says the Londonwide LMCs guidance paper. It doesn't specify how much of a delay is unreasonable.
It also warns against the premature uploading of patient data to the SCR.