Legal fears over sharing patient records

GPs fear they could be sued for sharing patient records with the NHS Spine, after it emerged that two Bolton practices will become the first to link to the database within weeks.

More than 14,000 patients at the Bradshaw Brow practice and the Kearsley Medical Centre were due to receive letters as GP went to press, giving them eight weeks to opt out of having their  records on the database.

If they do not object, or do not respond, summary versions of their patient records will be uploaded to the NHS spine after a further eight-week wait.

These will be accessible to staff within A&E departments and out-of-hours providers who hold smartcards that enable them to view patient records.

The records will contain demographic information, diagnoses, recently prescribed medications and details of adverse events. Patients will eventually be able to view their records via the Health Space website.

Connecting for Health, the arms-length DoH agency responsible for NHS IT, will roll out the summary record system across Bolton by the summer, and in six other PCTs by the end of 2007.

If patients want to opt out of sharing their data, or want to edit it before sharing it, GP practices are expected to discuss this with patients. Practices can add Read codes to records preventing them from being shared.  

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