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Mobile phone giant unveils plans for patient records

By Ian Quinn

Mobile phone giant O2 has launched plans to provide electronic records for patients in a move which looks set to accelerate the winding up of the national Summary Care Record.

The firm has launched a new health division which aims to capitalise on the coalition Government's indication that it wants to move away from Government-run records, to an individualised system in which patients and GP commissioners can chose which providers they work with.

O2 is the first major consumer company to announce it is interested in running patient records, but it was reported last year that the Conservatives were planning to open the way for the likes of Microsoft and Google to become providers, while other mobile firms such as Orange and T-Mobile are believed to be also interested in entering the arena.

Pulse exclusively reported last month that the Government plans to massively scale back the Department of Health's role in patient records, in favour of allowing locally driven systems to develop with new providers.

Last week's health White Paper called for an ‘information revolution', which it said would mean ‘the patient will determine who else can access their records and be easily be able to see changes when they are made to their records.'

Keith Nurcombe, head of O2 Health, said: ‘The nirvana for the NHS has always been electronic records on a national basis but the White Paper does point to pushing things locally. Where I think we have a part to play is by allowing patient control over the information they access.'

‘Our model fits more with a localised system in which the patient is in control than one where there is a centralised system.'

O2, which has 22 million customers in the UK and is the largest single operator, has been piloting its technology with PCTs and hospital trusts but says it plans to begin marketing to GP commisisiing groups as they take on the key role in providing services.

Under its system patients would be able to use technology such as the iPhone to access both their records and a range of healthcare services it plans to develop with private and NHS providers.

The firm insists that it has been developing its plans over the past year and would have launched regardless of the result of the election.

However, Mr Nurcombe admitted that recent development, including the White Paper launch, had been ‘like the lights have just been switched on.'

Ben Dowd, business sales director of 02, said: ‘We see this as a big opportunity. The NHS needs to embrace private companies that can actually make a difference in this tough fianancial climate.'

‘For us the key thing will be about establishing out credentials from a brand perspective and not to overpromise but at the same time we're talking about technology which is ready to be used now, not in three of four years time.'

‘The financial situation does not allow for that.'

O2's announcement comes just days after the national Summary Care Record suffered the latest in a long stream of national controversies, after Pulse exclusively revealed up to 200,000 patients may have been put at risk by inaccurate data on their medications and allergies.

NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson revealed at the launch of the White Paper that a consultation into the entire national programme for IT will be launched later this year. It is expected to see a massive reduction in Government spending on the project.

Mobile phone giant unveils plans for patient records