Friday, February 09, 2007

Enquiry into Electronic Patient Records

On 5th Feb 2007 the Health Select Committee announced the terms of reference for its inquiry into the Electronic Patient Record and its use. The terms of reference are available in their press notice of 5 February. The deadline for written evidence is Friday 16 March.

The inquiry will focus particularly on the following areas:

• What patient information will be held on the new local and national electronic record systems, including whether patients may prevent their personal data being placed on systems;

• Who will have access to locally and nationally held information and under what circumstances;

• Whether patient confidentiality can be adequately protected;

• How data held on the new systems can and should be used for purposes other than the delivery of care e.g. clinical research; and

• Current progress on the development of the NHS Care Records Service and the National Data Spine and why delivery of the new systems is up to 2 years behind schedule.

I feel this is a good individuals and organisations to ensure that issues that they feel are important are included in the inquiry.

These might include:
* The type, quality, specificity and identifiability of the information which will be routinely shared in the NHS (and possibly beyond), and the right of the patient to insist that their information is not included or is restricted.

* The mechanisms, both technological and human, for controlling and securing access to the information. The recent case of staff in an A&E department sharing smartcard access, because it took too long to log on and off the system, highlights the risks.

* The risks of sharing detailed patient information with bodies such as drug companies- even if attempts have been made to annonymise or pseudo-annonymise it beforehand.

* The causes of current delays in implementation & the importance of getting the NHS to "own, love and understand" the IT programme in a way that it has not done up to now as suggested by David Nicholson a couple of weeks ago(see Picture this: an NHS data project that everybody loves, Guardian 8th Feb). In addition, comments may be welcomed about the current debates relating to the balance between central control through NHS Connecting for Health and local health communities.

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