The Department of Health will develop a plan to allow patients to access their electronic medical records online by the end of this Parliament. This emerged after Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, confirmed he had accepted all of the recommendations (PDF) of the NHS Future Forum.
The NHS Future Forum says the plan should cover the provision of training and support for NHS staff; data security and information governance issues; and "the offer" to patients, which includes repeat prescriptions, the viewing of test results and the remote booking of appointments.
Organisations including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association, the NHS commissioning board and relevant patient bodies should be invited by the department to work on the plan.
The Future Forum did warn that switching on patient access alone is not enough, and could be detrimental if support structures are not in place for patients so they understand and know how to use the information.
"The planned roll‐out of patient access to electronic records by the government must acknowledge this and ensure that a support structure is in place, including a proper consent process," it says.
In addition, the NHS must use its IT systems to share data about individual patients electronically, and develop a consent model that facilitates this.
Decisions about how this is achieved should be made by individual providers, but with common goals and standards. Interoperability is a key requirement so that IT systems "talk" to each other, the forum said.
The government will commission a review of current information governance rules and report during this year, with the aim of ensuring there is an appropriate balance between the protection of patient information and the use and sharing of information to improve care.
The Future Forum is a group of 57 health sector specialists chaired by the professor Steve Field, the former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Field comments: "The world is shrinking: in an age of connectivity where people access information at the click of a button, the NHS cannot remain in the information dark ages.
"It is therefore critical that we hardwire the declaration of 'no decision about me, without me' into every part of the system."
In a joint statement, forum members professor David Haslam and Jeremy Taylor say: "The barriers to making the 'information revolution' a reality are much more cultural than they are technological.
"What is needed more than anything is a change of mindset in the NHS, so that it is taken for granted that the provision of information to patients and service users is an integral part of the therapeutic process."
Commenting on the government's stance, Lansley said: "The NHS Future Forum has again provided invaluable feedback and advice on what the NHS needs to do to improve results and put the NHS truly on the side of patients. We are taking forward modernisation within the NHS in partnership with professional leaders from the service. I'm pleased to accept all their recommendations."
This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.
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