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Greater access to medical records causes DA worry

Twenty-three organisations have publicly raised concerns that patients’ new right to have access to their NHS medical records could put domestic abuse survivors at greater risk.

The main fear is perpetrators may obtain the data by coercing their victim to share access to the website or app. Refuge, one of the organisations which has raised the concerns, described that as perpetrators weaponising information for abuse.

The charity’s interim CEO Ellen Miller said: “Our message to survivors is simple: call your GP surgery and ask that access to your records be switched off, so that they cannot be viewed in the app.”

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee for England, is concerned for some categories of patients.

“This could be a woman who tells her abusive partner she has a GP appointment when in fact she is seeking support with her domestic situation, a parent whose abusive spouse may use sensitive clinical information to undermine legal cases of custody of dependents in the family courts, patients requesting covert contraception forbidden in their home or relationship, or those disclosing abuse from others who may have access to their smartphone,” she said.

Other organisations raising concerns include Surviving Economic Abuse, the Independent Domestic Abuse Services, Respect, Women’s Aid, SafeLives and the Centre for Women’s Justice.

An NHS England spokesperson said it takes patient safety seriously and worked with organisations representing survivors of domestic abuse over the last 18 months to develop guidance for GP practices to ensure patients can decline access to the information.

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