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Thursday 24th May 2018

E-care records go ahead

18th December 2006

04032006_DoctorAtPC1.jpgA new national database of patient records will go ahead, the government has announced.The controversial new system will allow doctors across England to access medical records which, the government hopes, will improve patient care.

Data such as medical history, medication, allergies and adverse drug reactions will be available to doctors across the country. However, patients will be given the right to veto their records being shared nationally if they wish. 

The new system is part of a 10-year, £6bn upgrade of NHS IT. Government ministers have argued that the current paper system risks patient safety as time is wasted in emergency situations contacting GPs for medical information. However, many doctors and patients feel otherwise. In a recent survey, half of the 1,000 GPs polled said they would consider refusing to put patient records onto a national database as they felt the new system could damage GP/patient relationships and compromise confidentiality. However, the move by the government has won the backing of the doctors' trade union which to date has been suspicious of the plans.

After a pilot in the spring, the new system will link more than 30,000 GP surgeries in England to nearly 300 hospitals and will potentially hold the records of 50m people. An advisory group will be set up to tackle the practicalities of the veto and how it can be achieved. Sensitive data such as HIV status will be given special consideration. It is thought that patients will be able to access and amend their details online before they are put on the national database. If a patient does not register their opposition to electronic records at this stage it will be assumed they are consenting.

The plans have received mixed reviews. The British Medical Association said the recommendations provided a “good first step? whilst a health spokesman for the Liberal Democrats expressed concern that the new system will “undermine civil liberties?.

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