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Published on 11 October 2010

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Central patient database “needed”


A central database of patients’ records should be available for doctors to use in an emergency, according to a Department of Health review.

In the study of Summary Care Records (SCRs), researchers decided that the electronic information about medications, allergies and demographic details could be effective in ensuring the safety of patients.

The opt-out database was introduced in early 2010, but the British Medical Association suspended it in April, after fears it was being introduced too quickly.

After a second review, which recommended that patients are given more information about the system, people will have two chances to opt-out.

Following the initial chance to turn down the service, patients will be given a letter when a record is being created for them, with an opt-out form and a pre-paid envelope 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.”

A BMA spokesman said: “We welcome the progress that has been made towards an emergency electronic record that supports urgent care, yet recognises many of the understandable concerns of patients and clinicians.

“Much will depend on the way the amended scheme is put into practice, and the BMA looks forward to continuing our work with government on its implementation.

“It is essential that patients have genuine control over who has access to their records, and when changes are made to them.”

Copyright Press Association 2010

Department of Health

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