Push To Allow NHS Patients To See Medical Records Online


New proposals from the influential NHS Future Forum could allow patients to view their medical records online by 2015

NHS patients should be able to see their medical records online by 2015, under a proposal from the NHS Future Forum, a group of leading doctors advising the Government over its health reforms.

According to its proposals, the Forum’s idea is that people essentially “own” their medical records, and should be able to see their medical history, download their case notes, and even see the comments made by GPs and medical staff (providing they can read the writing) about their particular case or ailment. Patients will also be able to order their repeat prescriptions and make appointments online, free-of-charge.

Online Proposals

“We fully support NHS patients having online access to their personal GP records,” Lord Howe, a health minister, was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph. “Our vision for a modern NHS is to give patients more information and control over their health.”

“That’s why the independent NHS Future Forum has continued to listen specifically on this issue and how we make it a reality for patients,” he said.

But the plans are likely to face opposition from some elements of the medical profession concerned over patient confidentially.

They could oppose the proposal because of fears that family or friends could gain access to sensitive health information about some patients. They may also have concerns that their confidential medical notes, giving frank, personal appraisals of the patients, will be viewed by the patient and could damage relationships.

Another worry is whether GP practices will actually be able to physically cope with digitising all their patients records, and whether the NHS can actually deliver a workable system for these proposals.

Poor Track Record

Of course, the government will be acutely aware of previous-botched NHS computer projects in this regard, most notably the notorious NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) scheme.

The NPfIT system was proposed in 2002 by the then Labour government to provide better communications across the NHS infrastructure, based around a central database for patients’ medical records, scans and X-rays.

The project came under continuous criticism for rising costs and dubious management. The flawed plan was then inherited by the current Coalition government which in September, 2010, pledged to pull the plug on it.

A year later, the government finally confirmed it was writing off the costs and axing the project.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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