Practices 'ready to upload full e-records'

Two Bolton GPs have praised the electronic record system being piloted in their practices.

After working since the start of 2007 with Bolton PCT and NHS Connecting for Health, they believe the system is ready to move to the next stage and upload full medical histories.

Nine practices have uploaded 53,000 summary care records on to the NHS spine so far in Bolton and three other PCTs in Dorset, Bury and South Birmingham are also joining the early adopter programme, which will trial the system until March 2008. The scheme will then be evaluated before it is introduced nationally.

Dr Julie McMillen, from the Kirby, Page and McMillen practice in Bradshaw Brow, said concerns GPs had with the system had been addressed.

'GPs were reluctant because of two main issues. One was consent from patients and the other was the actual workload of uploading the records,' she said. 'Consent hadn't been tested, but I am now happy with implied consent and so are patients.'

Implied consent is used for uploading summary care record details of prescriptions and allergies on to the NHS spine. Patients are mailed and must reply to opt out. Patients can choose not to have information they consider sensitive uploaded.

Dr McMillen said: 'Both the practice and the PCT have spent a huge amount of time getting this to work effectively, so for practices joining now, there should be no workload.'

However, Dr McMillen said that there may be significant work involved before medical histories are uploaded because more explicit consent will be required from patients.

In Bolton, the first clinicians to access the records will be out-of-hours services and triage nurses.

GP Dr Liaqat Natha, from Kearsley Medical Centre, said the records would be especially valuable for elderly patients.

'I aim to have medical information accessible for GPs seeing patients with difficulty explaining their medical problems.'

The records will also prove useful when a patient is unconscious or has language difficulties, Dr McMillen said.

To ensure security, clinicians can only access the record with a smartcard and the system must identify a legitimate relationship (the GP has referred them to a clinician). Certain staff, such as receptionists, will not be able to access medical information.

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