Headlines: November 19th, 2004

Moving the heath service from paper files, post-it notes and records left on trolleys, to an electronic patient record system has major implications for patient confidentiality. Although the current system has security weaknesses, the electronic record could pose a threat to some people and they need to know that if normal access to their record might cause them substantial damage or distress they can restrict access.In what is considered to be a long overdue move a national public awareness campaign is being launched next year to address the full range of issues posed by the implementation of the NHS Card Records Service. The purpose will be to raise patients’ awareness of their rights and how personal information can be used and shared within the health service.

Under the access controls governing the use of data, patients will be able to specify that detailed information should not be available to other NHS organisations via the summary record held on the NHS care records. While patients will have to actively ‘opt-out’ of having their medical record shared, they also have the right, under the Data Protection Act 1998, to object to the processing of data that can identify them.

The Department of Health has set up a group to oversee the development of electronic patient records to ensure that patient concerns about modernising healthcare are taken into account. Bringing together patients, healthcare professionals and the public, the Care Record Development Board will replace the previous Public Advisory Board and National Clinical Advisory Board. The new Board will commission teams to recommend how IT should be developed to support improved patient care.