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Information strategies and a bit of nursing

In England, the Department of Health has launched its new information strategy. Entitled The power of information: putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need,  the new strategy makes a number of recommendations.

Central recommendations are:

  • access to our own GP record online from 2015, with a view to making all health and social care records available in due course
  • information recorded once, at the first point of contact, at the time the contact happens, that can then be accessed by any other relevant health or social care professional. So, for example, records from a neurologist consultation are accessible to the GP online immediately afterwards
  • NHS number as the ‘primary key’ for sharing records between hospitals, clinics, general practice and social care
  • a central portal through which all records can be shared and are accessible, with appropriate safeguards to maintain privacy and security

As you may see, the main thrust of the strategy is to restart sharing of electronic patient records. The last attempt to do this, Connecting for Health, failed because it tried a central ‘command and control’ approach. This new approach is called ‘inter-operability’ and will allow each healthcare provider to retain their own style of record-keeping but in a way that allows each other healthcare professional to read the records.

The Patient Information Forum has a more detailed, helpful summary and positive spin on the strategy:  My summary will be posted on this site in a little while and may feature in a future issue of Way Ahead (a free quarterly magazine from the MS Trust for health professionals).

Similarly, the health department in Wales has published its own information strategy as part of Together for Health, the five year vision for health in Wales.

The Information delivery plan is most concerned with giving information about health services to the people who need them. So its focus is on health promotion – healthy living – and self-management. It also promises a national approach to measuring how people in Wales rate health services, and comparing Welsh health services with other international health services.

They also promise a single online information portal that will cover:

  • how the local NHS is organised
  • local plans for changes to health services
  • what services are available and how to contact them

Northern Ireland is also on this case.  The Health Minister has announced a new Electronic Care Record for people living in the province.
This is an integrated care record across primary care and hospitals. For the bystander, it will be entertaining and bizarrely satisfying if the last health service to embark on electronic information transfer actually gets the record up and working first in the UK.  Unlike England, though, the Electronic Care Record (ECR) will only be available to health professionals.

Alice Hamilton
31 May 2012

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