Headlines: July 20th, 2006

Details have been announced of the taskforce that will study outstanding issues and concerns arising from plans to set up a Summary Care Record system in the National Health Service. The team has been established to aid the introduction of the first phase of the NHS Care Records Service and will report to ministers at the end of November.The first phases of the NHS Care Records Service will be introduced in a small number of locations from early next year and the experience from those sites will be evaluated before a wider roll out during 2008. Each record will be created from information held in a number of places, which is automatically brought together when it is needed. A summary of care and clinical history will be held on a national database so particularly important patient information is always accessible.

Critics have raised concerns over the proposed NHS IT system. A group of doctors writing in the British Medical Journal said it was over budget and behind schedule and could put patient confidentiality at risk. They said it was unwise to put the medical records of the whole population on one computer.

The Taskforce will be chaired by Harry Cayton, the Department of Health’s National Director for Patients and the Public, and members will include the chairs of the BMA, and the Royal College of GPs, the General Secretary of the Royal College of Nurses, the President of the College of Emergency Medicine, and patients’ representatives.

It will look at concerns raised by patients and the clinical professions with the aim of resolving issues in practical ways that benefit patients and the NHS. Working with NHS Connecting for Health, it will draw up a plan for the implementation of the nationally available summary record and it will look at the way the United States’ Veterans’ Administration electronic health record system works. That system holds summary records for 23 million US ex-service personnel.

Health Minister Lord Warner said a recent report from the National Audit Office had confirmed the system could bring great benefits to the NHS and patients. “Now, we need to crack on with getting the NHS Care Records Service up and running next year. The Taskforce has wide representation and its members are well placed to resolve outstanding issues,” he said.