The LMC has received a query concerning the attached letter sent to practices by the Legal and General Insurance Company. This asks practices to accept electronic signatures of patient consent for the release of confidential information. The advice of the GPC on this matter is as below
There is good legal basis and precedence to accept digital signatures only.
GPC has been in discussion with the insurance industry about this proposed changes.
GPC is satisfied in principle but at the last joint GPC/RCGP IT meeting the Association of British Insurers (ABI) were asked to make some further changes to their proposed process before GPC could agree to them.
Therefore the GPC advice to practices is that they decline digital signatures at present citing that there is not agreement with the BMA General Practitioners Committee as yet. Even after there is agreement it will be entirely up to GPs whether to accept these or not.
In summary, whilst an electronic signature may be legally valid, practices are not obliged to accept it and should certainly not do so if they have any concerns whatsoever.
On a separate but related note GPC has still not received confirmation of nor definitive advice from the Information Commissioners Office, as to whether it is lawful for insurance companies (and here again this particularly refers to Legal and General) to use a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request (SAR) for copies of medical records rather than requesting a Personal Medical Attendant Report.The LMC would remind you of the advice on the BMA website and the recommended template letter that practices can send to their patients to confirm fully informed consent when a SAR is received.
The template letter is also attached and fullBMA/GPC guidance on allrelevantconfidentiality and insurance report issues are available at theselinks:
Click here to download the document "Template letter for web (DOC)".
Click here to download the document "Template letter for web (PDF)".
Click here to download the document "Legal and General electronic consent model".
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