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GP Connect to enable patient information sharing in Covid-19 outbreak

Past and present medical details will be shared across primary care during the emergency period

A new arrangement has been introduced to allow health professionals to access patient records across primary care during the coronavirus outbreak.

Commissioned by NHSX, the digital unit of the health service, and built and delivered by NHS Digital, new features in the GP Connect system will enable access to information about patients registered at other practices to support care during the emergency period.

Further information will be added to patients’ summary care records and will be made available to a wider group of health professionals, including significant past and present medical details, such as reasons for medications, care plan information and immunisations.

Also, NHS 111 staff will be able to book direct appointments for patients at any GP practice or specialist centre. Practices using EMIS software will be the first to roll out the new arrangements, followed by those using TPP and Vision.

“GPs and other front-line clinicians are increasingly finding themselves working differently, with normal working patterns disrupted and greater pressure than has been seen before on the system,” said Richard Alcock, interim director of primary care technology at NHS Digital.

“Patients will now be able to have appointments booked at practices other than where they are registered, as well as at a number of different healthcare settings.”

Alcock added that for this arrangement to work in practice, patients’ new clinicians will need to have quick access to their health information.

Read more about NHS in the pandemic

According to NHS Digital, existing opt-out requests for GP Connect and summary care records will still be honoured and individuals who do not want their data shared during the outbreak should contact their local GP practice. Conversely, those who opted out but want to opt back to facilitate their case, can do so.

The changes will be applicable only during the Covid-19 emergency period, after which suppliers will revert to local patient data sharing.

NHSX and NHS Digital have produced guidance for GPS to enable quick use of the service, said Alcock. “This step is crucial to support clinicians so that they can give timely, accurate clinical advice to their patients at a time when they are already under unprecedented stress and having to work in completely new ways to deliver care,” he added.

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