What GDPR And Increased Data Protection Means For GPs

The bureaucracy that comes with the medical profession is already a source of strain for doctors, but new GDPR rules are adding to the strain, according to GPs. GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation rules came into force in May 2018, providing stricter guidelines on how personal data is handled. As a result of the rules, individuals have the right to request information held about them – and the result is an increasing workload for GPs. Could patient care be at risk as a result?

What the GDPR rules say

When GDPR came into force earlier this year, most organisations felt some kind of pressure, or, at the very least were forced to update their privacy notices. For GPs, GDPR presented several implications, including the need for practices to have a designated Data Protection Officer. One of the most significant elements of GDPR is that it has highlighted the rights of patients to request the data that is held about them in their medical records.

According to the rules, all data protection requests must be met within one month, with grounds for further action if this condition isn’t met. As a result, some GPs are being inundated with requests for data records, resulting in a growing volume of paperwork. The work involves more than simply just photocopying records, and is having a severe effect on some doctors’ working patterns.

Effect of increased data protection workload on working patterns

Fulfilling data requests takes a lot of work, particularly within the relatively short deadline. Since GDPR began, doctors have seen a 10-fold increase in paperwork. Notes have to be manually redacted by doctors to remove sensitive or personal information, which can take up time to ensure personal data remains protected. Doctors are finding that they are having to use up time that should be spent with patients. From closing early, to taking half days without appointments to cope with the demand, the fear is that it’s patients who will suffer. Some doctors are having to tackle the work out of hours, and argue that the time spent could be better spent helping manage out of hours services instead.

Is there a solution?

The BMA has been meeting with the Law Society and the Department of Health to try and resolve the situation. It’s hoped that discussions will continue to find ways of easing the pressure on GPs.

Working out of hours can provide a solution to the growing volume of paperwork experienced by GPs. Out of hours roles provide a change of pace compared to typical GP hours, dealing with patients on an ad-hoc basis rather than providing regular care to ongoing patients. Doctors facing ‘GP burnout’ can benefit from working out of hours, and might want to consider switching to experience a different side to patient care.

If you’d like more information about out of hours, you can find details of our GP vacancies on our jobs page.