Push To Allow NHS Patients To See Medical Records Online

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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.

  1. The key to truly giving patients control over their medical records may be to allow them the option to not digitalize those records yet. The woes of large data breaches of governments and health care businesses should raise red flags for consumers.

    To truly own your medical records, they should be treated just like the paper files. If they are stolen, the business will make a police report, and charges will be filed against the thief -even if the thief doesn’t profit. If a provider has shown negligence in protecting that information then they should be held liable. Today the laws in most states all for either.

    Does the patient really benefit if their neighbors, creeps and employers can access their medical history and prescriptions too? In the rush to make medical records available online, privacy is being forgotten. Once she is gone, patients can never get her back. Its seems that truly giving a patient control over their medical records, means ensuring their security first.

    Having lived through lost medical privacy first hand , I can say I would gladly give back any convenience of being able to check a few things online in order to recover the peace of mind my family lost forever.

  2. GP notes may just be possible under this scheme but NHS Hospitals will find it virtually impossible to meet a 2015 deadline. The hospial at which I work holds around 200,000 sets of notes in various conditions of repair. Does the average user realise what a 20 year old piece of paper is like after being filed in a well handled file. There is no way that any automatic system can be used for this task. To manually scan the millions of documents required in this timescale would be physically impossible. We are a medium sized NHS Hospital and every Hospital in the country will have the same problems. Where exactly are the billions of pounds required for this project coming from?

  3. This is NOT about giving patients access to their own medical records,it’s about governement being able to access YOUR medical data,through sharing data across government inter-departmental databases.

    GP’s should NOT be allowed to make ‘personal’ notes about patients,it’s unprofessional.

    Any online access should be secured by using PIN devices,as when banking online,with national insurance or social security numbers being encrypted,known only to the person whose property it is.

  4. It doesn’t have to be online for historic records – But patients should have the right to view and make copies of their own paper records. The rsecurity risk is then theirs!

    Security – well there are lots of people n the NHS who have access to patient records so security at the moment is not guranteed.

    1. Why would someone need to see their medical records online?

      I cannot understand any one-time that it would be vital for a person to look at their record online.

      Surely if you was concerned or needed to see your medical records you would nip to the doctors.You would also then have the opportunity to discuss any irregularity or concerns that you have.

      I feel the reason for putting everyones details into an online database is that it opens up the information for private health companies to use. Don’t get sucked into the idea that being able to access your medical records is a benefit for you, it isn’t.

      The NHS is being privatised, that there is no doubt.

      Another paid for national treasure is being sold off to make money for the already rich of this world.

  5. The proposal is nothing new. My GP has online access for appointments and prescriptions already and access to records (at least those in electronic format – mainly in the last 15yrs since GPs had computers) is available but not yet activated. Efforts would be better directed in joining up primary care and secondary care interoperability – so your GP could see exactly what your hospital has done to you and not rely of a three-line discharge letter that is so brief as to be worthless

  6. My GP has already been able to offer me and others,the facility to request repeat medication via their website, as well as being able to make an appointment with most of the doctors.
    It is still early days, however the system is accessed by user name and password and no one is allowed to make more than one appointment at a time.
    At present their are no immediate plans to enable me to access my records for free.
    The system works well and is extremely helpful.
    Any perceived privatisation was begun the moment the last labour Government decided to mis-negotiate the PFI deals that many NHS trusts are now lumbered with.
    The situation is so ridiculous. Money that could have been spent on front line services now goes to service the massive debt, with repairs and maintenance costing up to ten times as much as an ordinary outside contractor.

  7. Far too risky. I’d hate my details to be available online, even though I’d never risk accessing them myself.

    How dare others think we should all have all our data held online by many different organisations, without our permission. BT put us all on, even when we weren’t fully named in the phonebook – later advising not to put a first name in for security reasons, yet having themselves done so on the internet version! Sure, they’ll remove it and after a year it goes, sort of. But not really, as many firms had already bought the info and now online firms allow access to non-publicly available contact details to all who are prepared to pay a small sum for it. Likewise local councils, the 2002 census info went on without a by-your-leave. The only past those events is to move house. Not all can afford to do so.

    So much for personal privacy and security.

    No, the internet is not 100% secure and never will be.

    Yes, it is a great tool. But it is all the less secure because too many people presume it is safe and don’t heed simple precautions.

    Yes, systems can be hacked in to; and mistakes happen. The NHS has been fraught enough – “IT-challenged” would be putting it mildly. Big banks and others have been proved to be not immune. Even the Inland Revenue has had data at risk.

    Do not allow the NHS to put patient records online without their explicit permission to do so.