Last reviewed 2 February 2021

The NHS (General Medical Services Contracts and Personal Medical Services Agreements) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 came into force at the start of January 2021, contractually obliging GPs to record patients’ ethnicity in their records where patients are happy to share it.

The purpose of the regulations, which amend the GMS and PMS contracts, is to ensure the information is recorded in a patient’s medical records when they provide information about their ethnicity in response to a specific request made by their GP. The regulations also set out the purposes for which that information may be processed.

The information is optional and will not affect registration but should be coded in the available categories, which include “prefer not to say”.

Any information recorded in accordance with the regulations may only be processed if the processing is necessary for medical purposes. Nothing in the regulations authorises the processing of personal data in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the data protection legislation.

NHS England has stressed in a recent bulletin that ethnicity information is “sensitive personal data and must be processed and used only for medical purposes in accordance with data protection legislation”.

The changes come as concerns have been raised that ethnicity is not being routinely collected as part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. NHS England has also added ethnicity reporting to Pinnacle, the system being used to record vaccinations, as a “supplementary measure”.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) suggested that a lack of data collected at the point of vaccination may hinder efforts to ensure good vaccine uptake among different ethnic groups.

The regulations are available at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1415/contents/made