• GP Connect launched across all GP practices to allow secure information sharing 
  • Patients can book appointments through NHS 111 
  • Additional information added to summary care records

All NHS GPs will be able to access records of patients registered at other practices during the coronavirus pandemic, following a significant dropping of normal restrictions.

Appointments will also be shared across practices, while NHS 111 staff will be able to book appointments with GPs and specialist on a much wider basis than normal.

NHS Digital and NHSX have launched changes to information sharing system GP Connect across, meaning patient records are shared across primary care. 

Additional information — such as significant medical history and reason for medication — will also be added to patients’ summary care records, which can be accessed by an even wider set of healthcare staff. Normally this requires opt-in by individuals, whereas only those who have specifically opted out will now be excluded.

According to a press announcement, these changes will only be in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement said that after this, “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”.

The statement said: “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. ”

Richard Alcock, NHS Digital’s interim director of primary care technology, said: “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 as 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.”

Moves were already under way to enable 111 to book GP appointments, but roll out had been limited. It is not yet clear what the new arragements will mean for this.