Headlines: March 9th, 2006

New steps have been announced to cut paperwork in an effort to free frontline staff in the National Health Service to concentrate on patient care. The joint project by the Cabinet Office’s Better Regulation Executive and the Department of Health includes some practical changes to remove or minimise red tape resulting from the way information is shared.As part of the plan, the Law Society, The Association of British Insurers and The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers have agreed to work with their members to reduce the number of requests for patient records in pursuing personal injury claims for amounts below ten thousand pounds. That is expected to cut the number of requests by up to 300,000 a year.

A single information sharing protocol will be developed by December to deal with the current confusion created by various pieces of legislation and guidance. This will mean health and social care staff will be able to exchange information more appropriately and effectively. By September, the Department of Health will issue guidance promoting consistent interpretation of legislation on the use of patient information for medical research.

Jim Murphy, the Cabinet Office Minister responsible for better regulation, said the proposals were about removing some of the barriers that inhibited frontline health and social care staff every day. “By clearing up the confusion that currently exists around sharing patient information and removing some of the administrative burdens on staff, we are enabling them to focus on the invaluable work of treating patients.”

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said it was pleased agreement had been reached over regulations on personal injury claims, which currently require health staff to screen and copy patient records on a daily basis, taking up thousands of working-hours. The move has also been welcomed by doctors.