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NHS database of patient medical details to receive £1bn investment

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The Guardian has recently reported on the Health secretary’s announcement that a new IT system, which will allow clinicians in hospitals, GP surgeries, social workers and out of hours doctors to share the nation’s medical details, will receive a £1bn cash injection.

The system will also enable patients to view and update their own medical records, manage repeat prescriptions and book GP appointments. The online portal is currently being piloted in some of the nation’s NHS hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, hopes that the new system will help to prevent errors and allow clinicians access to patients’ full care history through the online portals. The portals aim to reduce the paperwork involved in treating patients and alleviate pressures on clinicians in busy hospital departments.

Privacy campaigners fear that such a detailed database of patient information could be detrimental to the nation and will destroy the fiduciary relationship between clinician and patient. Experts point out that there is a danger individuals will suffer as a result of the online portal, for example, in cases of domestic abuse or teenagers seeking contraception, through password appropriation. In addition, there could be potential for harm through cross organisation information sharing.

In response, the Department of Health said: "It is obviously of critical importance that health professionals can maintain accurate records of patient care, so patients get the right treatment. The NHS Constitution makes clear that patients have the right to request that confidential information – in whatever form it is kept – is not used beyond their own care.”

The full story can be read here.

By Alex Gill, clinical negligence department