Electronic patient records

The UK Health Minister has set out key details of what patients and the public can expect from the NHS Care Records Service.

He announced that a Public Information Programme, with national roadshows and an explanatory leaflet, are to be sent to most households in England. ‘Patients will be informed in advance about new ways in which their information will be held and shared, and will be told they have the right to dissent - or opt out - of having information shared,’ he said. ‘If they do not opt out, they will be deemed to have given implied consent to the sharing of their information, under strict controls between those legitimately treating them.’ He also pointed out that they will be able to see their summary record and note any issues they wish on an electronic health-space.

The NHS Care Records Service will enable detailed patient records to be held locally, with a summary of the detailed record available nationally, so rigorous safeguards are being emplaced to protect patient confidentiality. Anyone who wants to access a record that identifies a patient will need a smartcard and passcode (chip and pin). The level of information that is seen will be determined by the role of the staff member. There will also be an audit trail of access to records and, in the caser of inappropriate access, alerts will be triggered. 

A special NHS Care Records Taskforce has been set up to address concerns around electronic patients records.

Regarding the publication NHS Care Record Guarantee for England, Lord Warner said that it gives weight to people’s autonomy over data sharing and control of what is shared, but balances this with clinicians’ needs to keep good records, and for anonymised information to be used for audit, management and research.

On the subject of the NHS National Programme for IT(NPfIT), of which the NHS Care Records Service is a part, he said: ‘The Government is committed to ensuring that NPfIT is fully implemented and delivered. We are not going to be deflected by naysayers from any quarter. We recognise that more needs to be done on articulating the benefits that the Programme will bring to patients and also to NHS staff.’

However, he emphasised that he does not support the 23 academics who have asked the House of Commons Health Select Committee to commission a review of NPfITs technical architecture: ‘I want the programme’s management and suppliers to concentrate on implementation, and not be diverted by attending to another review.’


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