Transformation Directorate

Better information sharing to help clinicians during COVID-19

Better information sharing to help clinicians during COVID-19

GPs and authorised health and care professionals in the NHS will now be able to access primary care records for patients registered at other practices during the Coronavirus epidemic. They will also be able to share appointments across the GP estate, providing flexibility for staff, allowing them to deliver safer and more effective care.

NHS Digital and NHSX have introduced GP Connect to all practices, which will enable the secure sharing of patient records across primary care, meaning that health and care professionals have the information necessary to give patients the care they need quickly and effectively, regardless of whether they are registered at that practice or have accessed that service before.    

In addition, NHS 111 staff will also be able to book direct appointments for patients at any GP practice or specialist centre. 

Additional Information will be added to patients’ Summary Care Records and will be made available to a wider group of authorised, registered and regulated health and care professionals so clinicians can quickly assess and treat patients.

The Additional Information will be automatically added to the Summary Care Record of any patient who has not expressed a preference that information isn’t shared and will include significant medical history (past and present), reasons for medications, care plan information and immunisations. 

These changes will increase information sharing across health and care professionals working in primary care, NHS 111 and other care settings where access is required for patients’ direct care.   They will support NHS staff to work flexibly, giving them the information they need to provide timely and effective care, wherever they are most needed.

Richard Alcock, Interim Director of Primary Care Technology at NHS Digital said: “GPs and other front-line clinicians are increasingly finding themselves working differently, with normal working patterns disrupted and a greater pressure than seen before on the system. 

“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.   However, for that to work in practice, their new clinicians will need to have swift access to pertinent medical information, such a previous medical history or medications prescribed, to treat them safely.

“We have produced guidance with NHSX for GP practices to help them enable the GP Connect change quickly and without any hassle so that they can benefit from this functionality, providing them with the information they need to do their jobs effectively.

“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.”

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive at NHSX said: "Colleagues on the frontline across the NHS are doing extraordinary work in caring for our patients in the most challenging of circumstances, and these temporary changes will help them to give the most prompt and appropriate care to people who need it.”


Find out more

Guidance for health and care professionals

Notes to editors

  1. The new GP Connect arrangements will first roll-out to all practices using EMIS software, with those using TPP and Vision shortly following. 

  2. All existing opt-out requests for GP Connect and SCR will remain honoured.  Any individual who does not want to have their information shared can still arrange this by contacting their local GP practice.  If those who have already opted-out before the COVID-19 pandemic, now want to opt back in to help facilitate their care, they can also do so by contacting their GP practice. 

  3. Additional Information will be added to the Summary Care Records for patients registered at 99.65% of GP practices.

  4. This work was commissioned by NHSX and built and delivered by NHS Digital.

  5. These changes will only be enabled for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency period, whilst the Notice issued by the Secretary of State under the Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002 is in force. On expiry of this Notice, GP suppliers will be instructed to revert to previously existing local sharing only on GP Connect and the SCR will revert back to requiring prior explicit consent for the sharing of Additional Information.

  6. The efficacy, proportionality, experience and expectation of patients and professionals will be reviewed during the emergency period to consider whether there would be benefit in retaining these changes after the emergency period. Any such proposals will be subject to appropriate consultation. 

NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

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