GPs in three areas of England will be expected to share patient data with social care as well as hospitals in the next two years.
The new scheme from NHS England will see GPs work off a record system shared between practices, trusts and local authorities, in an effort to improve patient safety.
NHS England officials have said the scheme will ‘save lives’ and mean patients ‘don’t have to repeat themselves’.
GP leaders said the scheme will improve patient care if the data are shared ‘in an appropriate and safe way’.
As part of the scheme, Greater Manchester, Wessex and London will each receive £7.5m over two years to set up a shared electronic local health and care record to cover a total of 14 million patients.
NHS England told Pulse that the aim is to have the record-sharing systems in place at the end of the two years, in 2019/20.
It added that patient information would only be provided to appropriate people in the NHS and social care systems, and only when it’s needed.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA GP Committee said: ‘Patient care can be improved when practices, hospitals and social care share clinical information in an appropriate and safe way.
‘It’s important to fully involve practicing clinicians in the development of these local systems to create arrangements that protect patient information and retain the confidence of the profession.
‘When this is done, improved access to clinical information can enable all those involved to provide better care to a patient and their family.’
NHS England said each area had nominated an organisation to hold the funding, but was unable to disclose which organisations these were as funding agreements have yet to be signed.
Will Smart, NHS England’s chief information officer for health and care, said the new scheme is ‘raising the bar for how the NHS can improve care through technology’.
He said: ‘By sharing information across a larger population, we can ensure that as people move across the different parts of the NHS and social care they don’t have to repeat themselves and provide the same information time and again.’
And Dr Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer for health and care, said: ‘Sharing information for people’s individual care can be lifesaving by quickly providing staff with the details they need, from patient histories to previous test results and care plans.’
Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: ‘Patients rightly expect that, wherever they’re being treated in the NHS, doctors and nurses will have access to all the vital information they need.
‘Building on successful projects across England, this new programme will make that a reality for millions of patients – with the potential to improve care and save lives.’
To share or not to share?
GP record sharing has long been a contentious topic.
GP leaders have previously told GPs to consider switching off SystmOne’s patient record sharing function after it was found that SystmOne did not alert GPs to when new providers gain access to the patient record, and did not allow practices to limit record access to local organisations or those directly involved in caring for a patient.
But the ICO advised GPs using the system not to switch off enhanced information sharing despite concerns, ahead of an update to the record-sharing feature that gave GPs ‘additional controls’ through which they can properly discharge their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act.
NHS England confirmed that the news systems created by the exemplars would only ever use identifiable patient information for individual care and patients will be offered a choice on how their identifiable information is used for research and planning purposes following the launch of GDPR legislation on 25 May.
This comes after it was revealed that NHS bosses overrided the wishes of 1.2m patients who opted out of having their medical data shared within and outside of the NHS in 2016.