Objectives: While genitourinary medicine (GUM) records have historically been kept separate from other medical data, patient information is increasingly shared across the NHS. There are advantages to this in GUM: GPs are increasingly involved in delivering targets for STI screening and sexual health services. We ascertained patient attitudes to proposals to routinely send clinic letters to GPs and to share GUM data on common IT systems.
Methods: Clinic attendees in the period 24 March to 5 April 2006 completed a questionnaire concerning their opinion on letters to GPs, GUM data sharing and personal presumptions about the implications of having HIV testing. Patient demographic data, clinic test results and questionnaire answers were analysed using SPSS.
Results: Of 527 patients who completed the questionnaire, 187 (35%) agreed to GP contact, 337 (64%) declined and 3 (1%) failed to express a preference. Factors significantly associated with agreement to GP contact included heterosexual orientation (p<0.05), initial GP referral (p<0.001) and not considering HIV testing to have negative implications for future mortgage and life insurance applications (p<0.05). When questioned on attitudes to GP access of computerised results, 291 patients (55%) approved, 231 (44%) disagreed and 5 (1%) failed to reply; 128 patients (24%) said that they would be less likely to attend GUM if this occurred.
Conclusions: Mode of referral and concerns about the implications of HIV testing affect patient preference on information sharing. A significant proportion of patients still want GUM visits to be anonymous and a policy of sharing GUM data on common IT systems may deter patient attendance.
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Competing interests: None.