Patient Veto For E-Care Records

The goverment is pushing ahead with the controversial electronic care records system – but has agreed to give patients a veto. Ministers said the system, part of a 10-year, £6bn upgrade of NHS IT, was about improving care. It will mean doctors across England will be able to access records containing data on medication, allergies and adverse drug reactions.

But patients will be allowed to veto their records being shared nationally. Doctors and patients have expressed fears a compulsory electronic record system could damage the GP/patient relationship, and compromise confidentiality.

Pilots will start in the spring, and the government is also setting up an advisory group to look at how just the veto can be achieved. The U-turn was prompted by a report led by Patient’s Tsar Harry Cayton. How more sensitive data, such as HIV status, will be held electronically is still being considered.

Health Minister Lord Warner said: “We are going forward cautiously. We believe that despite the noise it has generated patient care records will be of huge benefit to patients’ care. We believe there are some myths about how effective the current arrangements are in regards to safety.”

The new system will be designed to link more than 30,000 GPs in England electronically to nearly 300 hospitals. It will hold records for 50m people in England. It is hoped it will make unscheduled treatment – including care in emergenices – quicker and safer.

Ministers argued that the current record-keeping system, which uses paper records, desperately requires modernisation.

However, a poll of over 1,000 GPs by the Guardian newspaper last month found half would consider refusing to put patient records automatically on to a new national database.