Headlines: October 3rd, 2000

Family doctors and the Department of Health are welcoming a new move to bring in electronic paper records. The stumbling block to the streamlining of GP paperwork has been the traditional contractual agreement between doctors and the NHS, which has until now required paper records.The BMA says it has re-negotiated this to ensure that modernisation takes place at the pace a GP can cope with. It is doctors who will decide when to make the change, and to what extent. There will be controls. Surgeries will need the consent of their local health authority, and will be expected to stick to new best practice guidelines. There is also an issue about retaining up to fifty years of paper records, which are highly unlikely to be transferred onto computer.

The agreement commits the National Health Service Executive to deliver a system within three years that will allow coded records to be exchanged electronically by GP practices. Millions of hours of doctors’ nurses’ and practice staff time will be saved when EPR transfer between practices is a reality. For example, test results of a patient need only be entered once rather than needing to be re-keyed each time the patient moves from practice to practice as happens at present.

Copies of the Statutory Instrument changing GPs’ terms of service, a letter from NHS Executive, Primary Care Division informing of action and guidance for health authorities and GPs and the Good Practice Guide on Electronic Patient Records can be found at http://www.doh.gov.uk/gpepr .