NHS to overhaul patient-record access

Patients will now have to give specific permission every time NHS staff want to access their electronic Summary Care Records

The NHS is to overhaul the way staff access electronic medical records following concerns the existing system is unethical.

Patients will now have to give permission every time NHS employees want to access their electronic Summary Care Records (SCRs), following a decision by the NHS Care Records Board earlier this week. Previously, patients had to choose between two options on how their SCRs were treated — either allowing the records to be shared with personnel only with their permission, or to be shared with any authorised NHS user.

SCRs are being trialled for patients in five areas of the UK — Bolton, Bradford Bury, Dorset and south Birmingham — and more than 160,000 have been created to date, with only one percent of patients opting out.

A study of the trial rollout by University College London (UCL) in May 2008 questioned the ethics of automatically adding patient's details to a SCR unless they opted out, and the complexity of the two-tier existing system where patients had to chose who could access their records.

Dr Gillian Braunold, clinical director of the SCR, said the changes had been prompted by the UCL report's findings.

She said in a statement: "We have listened to doctors and nurses who have raised concerns about the complexity of the earlier model and are certain we now have a model which will work across a full range of care situations."

Patients will still have to opt out of having a SCR created from their medical records.

It follows the launch of a 12-week consulation by the NHS with the public on how it uses patient data.