Headlines: February 5th, 2002

A pilot project is trialing an information link between NHS Direct, the phone in health helpline, and GP practices within the area of the trial. If the project is successful and rolled out nationally it will remove the difficulty that GPs are normally quite unaware that patients have been in contact with the helpline, and when they do find out they do not know what treatment, if any, was prescribed.Provided patients give their consent, an electronic message can be sent to the GP’s computer system and entered automatically on the patient’s record, giving a true picture of what has happened to the patient. Information will include the patient’s address, telephone number and GP, the date and time of contact, the problem details, who took the call and if it was passed for advice or a visit. In return NHS Direct will receive information from the GP providing details of any further consultations with the patient. Patient information sent electronically is protected by encryption and digital signature to ensure security and confidentiality.

Potential future developments include a system to allow patients to book an appointment with their GP practices via NHS Direct.