The new GP Contract, agreed by the British Medical Association (BMA) General Practitioners Committee (GPC) and NHS England, states that patients must be able to see their full medical record, including past notes, in a change which will become a contractual requirement from 2020 to 2021.

By 1 July 2019, the NHS App, which is currently being rolled out nationally, should be available for all patients, which will allow online access to medical records.

However, patients will not have access to their past files until April 2020.

The GP contract stated: “NHS England and GPC England expect practices to make progress in 2019/20 towards the digital changes that will become contractual requirements from April 2020 and April 2021.

“All patients will have online access to their full record, as the default position from April 2020, subject to existing safeguards for vulnerable groups and third party confidentiality and system functionality.

“All practices will be giving all patients access online to correspondence by April 2020, as the system moves to digital by default (with patients required to opt-out rather than in).”

The BMA warned that practices will need a dedicated staff member to digitalise the records and check there is no harmful or third-party data included. It said practices shouldn’t have to fund the implementation of these changes, and has called on Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to provide the resources for the digitalisation process.

A BMA spokesperson said: “Some practices have received funding from their CCG to employ someone on a fixed-term contract to digitise records. Some have received funding to outsource the digitisation altogether. NHS Business Services Authority has some process to assist with digitisation (currently at a cost).

“We do not expect practices to have to pay for this themselves. As with other IT and software, it is CCGs responsibility to provide the resource to practices free of charge.”

The spokesperson added: “There will also be added benefit for practices, who will be able to make use of current records rooms, as other space.”

NHS England and the BMA agreed as part of the new contract to add £20 million to the global sum each year, for the next three years, to cover the costs associated with subject access requests (SARs). BMA guidance advises: “This funding will remain within the global sum until an IT solution is in place to allow patients to access their information without burden to the practice.”

Last reviewed 7 February 2019