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EMIS care records system to go live later this month

By Steve Nowottny

Out-of-hours GPs are to be given access to thousands of shared patient records later this month - under a system developed by private software providers.

The private sector has decided to push ahead with its own electronic records system after losing patience with the painfully slow progress of the Summary Care Record.

Dozens of practices in Liverpool are expected to take sign up to the new scheme, linking software from EMIS and Adastra, while similar pilots are mooted for Gateshead and Tower Hamlets.

The plans, unveiled at EMIS' National User Group conference last week, come as Connecting for Health bosses prepare for a key meeting to discuss the future of the Summary Care Record project.

The NHS Care Records Board, which meets later this week, is expected to approve a major rethink of the project's controversial consent model.

The implied consent model is likely to be scrapped in favour of a system requiring patients' explicit consent each time their record is accessed.

But the rollout of the Summary Care Record in six early adopter PCTs has stalled over the summer pending a decision on consent.

Sean Riddell, managing director of EMIS Healthcare, said there was a real demand among out-of-hours providers for access to shared records.

‘The problem is the Summary Care Record is running hopelessly late,' he said. ‘People need to do these things now.'

In a heated debate at the conference, GPs warned there was a ‘tension' between the EMIS project and the Summary Care Record programme.

Dr Kambiz Boomla, chair of City and East London LMC, said: ‘It's almost like a race to see who gets there first.'

Dr Simon Bowers, the GP leading the rollout of the Liverpool scheme, said the project was ‘very much stepping into unknown territory', but had received strong backing from the city's GPs and LMC.

‘We've had good feedback from patients,' he said. ‘Every patient I've spoken to has given me without exception the same answer: you mean you don't do this already?'

Practices using the EMIS system can choose to opt into the scheme, and patients are asked for explicit consent every time their record is accessed.

Mr Riddell said the company was working to make its software interoperable with other systems – and warned patient care could suffer if rival providers refused to do likewise.

Consent and confidentiality

The twin issues of patient consent and patient confidentiality have been at the heart of the debate over shared patient records. The GMC officially launched a three-month consultation last week into the key challenges doctors face - but responses to an initial consultation on the subject show just how widespread GP concern is.

Electronic health records were identified by respondents as the most pressing issue, with GPs concerned at the extent to which they could be held accountable for any failures in a national system.

But the 31 doctors who responded to the initial consultation also expressed doubts over the secondary uses of patient data, and flagged up concerns about the possible disclosure of patient identifiable data as a result of increased centralised storage.

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