NHS summary care records for more than 48,500 patients have been uploaded to the national data “spine” – a key element of the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
The summary records, containing basic health information on patients, have been uploaded by Bolton PCT, in a pilot scheme before wider roll-out.
The summary records form part of the nascent NHS Care Record Service, which will eventually include both a summary and a detailed record on each patient. But the scheme has been highly controversial, with doctors expressing concerns about how computer records will be held and used.
The British Medical Association has written to ministers urging that the summary records should not be rolled out nationally until the results of the pilot schemes have been reviewed.
Bolton was originally slated to be one of six pilot trusts that would upload records to the spine, but so far only four have been announced.
Fears about confidentiality are likely to grow as work progresses to allow NHS records to be shared with thousands more staff in local authority social services departments.
The Bolton pilot has now uploaded records from eight of its 57 local GP practices, covering approximately 17% of the town’s population, and the Bolton out-of-hours family doctor service will be the first NHS organisation to begin accessing and using the electronic records.
The service handles more than 5,500 calls a month and it is expected that of these, around 900 will be from patients with the electronic summary records, which are designed to hold information that supports emergency care by staff other than a patient’s own GP.
Dr John Dean, medical director for quality and care improvement at Bolton PCT, said: “This exciting development will help us to deliver faster and safer care to our patients. Having accurate information on the patient’s medication and allergies is key to ensuring the right treatment. Staff are looking forward to having this information available for increasing numbers of the patients they see as more records are made available.”
NHS staff with access to the electronic records must receive appropriate training and be issued with an NHS smartcard and PIN. But last week, Connecting for Health, which runs NPfIT, admitted that it did not know how many of the nearly 400,000 smartcards issued around the country had been lost or stolen.
Staff at the Royal Bolton Hospital’s accident and emergency department and the PCT’s walk-in health centre are currently being trained to handle the records, alongside the out-of-hours service staff, and will be given access in the next few months, the PCT said.