Nurses and doctors will be able to access a patient’s medical records across primary and secondary care settings anywhere in England by the end of 2018, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced.
Speaking at at the NHS Innovation Expo in Manchester on 2 September, Mr Hunt also said patients would be able to access their general practice records in full by 2016. This means that patients will not only be able to see a summary of their allergies and medication, but also blood test results, appointment records, and full medical histories online.
Mr Hunt said: ‘Powerful patients need to know about the quality of healthcare being provided, but they also need to be able to harness the many innovations now becoming possible. Experience from other countries suggests that opening up access to your own medical record leads to a profound change in culture in a way that is transformative for people with complex or long term conditions.’
Ian Ireland, the chair of the RCN's e-health forum, said: 'We welcome all and any initiative that is directed at improving care for users of our services. Naturally we recognise that care data can be sensitive and we need proper protocols in place but when we look at other areas that are using data to drive up quality and reduce costs there are times we feel that care is lagging behind. We also believe that is about information, the technology is simply the tool to do the job. Nurses are often at the forefront of using the information and the technology and welcome any involvement in these developments.'
The health secretary set out a target to get 25% of smartphone users – approximately 15% of all NHS patients – accessing NHS services through apps by April 2016. The Department of Health has said that only 2% of NHS users have any digital interaction with the NHS, despite 84% of the population using the internet and 59% owning a smartphone.
Mr Hunt added: ‘As the internet drives forward the next wave of innovation, all over the world healthcare still seems to be at the back of the queue. We will only really be putting patients first if we can give them confidence that every part of the system knows their care plan, is up to date with their progress and doesn’t need them to repeat their story time after time.’
Concerns have arisen that confidential patient records could be targeted if they are made available online. However, Mr Hunt announced that the CQC will carry out a review of data protection arrangements in healthcare settings, and create guidelines which will be used in future CQC inspections.
Mr Hunt said: ‘The NHS has not yet won the public’s trust in an area that is vital for the future of patient care. Nothing matters more to us than our health, and people rightly say we must be able to assure the security of confidential medical information.’