Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Patient data 'could save lives'

Centrally-held electronic medical records could save lives, a Department of Health review found

Centrally-held electronic records of core patient information could save lives and should be available in emergency situations, a Department of Health review has found.

A study of Summary Care Records (SCRs) concluded that storing information such as medications, allergies and demographic details would be valuable in ensuring safe treatment.

The opt-out system was introduced earlier this year, but was suspended in April after the British Medical Association warned that it was being brought in too quickly.

A second review found that additional safeguards should be introduced to make sure patients are sufficiently informed about what information is being held on them.

As well as the initial opt-out, people will be contacted by letter to tell them that a record will be created. A opt-out form and pre-paid envelope will be included.

An awareness campaign will be rolled out to notify those contacted during SCR's initial introduction that a record is being created for them.

The review, led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh and involving leading patient groups, agreed that doctors should have access to essential medical information in emergency situations and that it should be clearly defined what is kept on a central database.

A second study into how patients are informed of their choices concluded that it would be a waste of money to write again to the 30 million people already contacted.

Instead efforts should be made at local, regional and national level to reiterate that they have a choice not to be included in the scheme.

Health Minister Simon Burns said: "I am pleased that a consensus has emerged about the importance of the SCR in supporting safe patient care, as long as the core information contained in it is restricted to medication, allergies and adverse reactions."

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