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Summary Care Records to be replaced with combined regional records by 2024

Summary Care Records are set to be replaced with new regional records – which will combine patient information from GP practices, hospitals and other care settings – NHS England has announced.

Currently, Summary Care Records only include a short summary of the patient’s GP record. However, by 2024 these will be replaced with the more detailed locally integrated health records, in order to allow for safe patient data sharing across the NHS, it said.

However, the changes also mean patients will no longer be able to opt out of sharing their data anonymously with researchers.

Government pilots of the regional records were introduced to five areas across the country last year, in a two-year scheme which allows GPs to share patient data with hospitals and social care.

The new records will ‘enable the safe and secure sharing of an individual’s health and care information as they move between different parts of the NHS and social care’, NHS England said.

They will also ‘reduce unnecessary patient tests’ and ‘improve safety’, it added.

The long-term plan, published by NHS England last month, said: ‘The Local Health and Care Record (LHCR) programme has started the work to create integrated care records across GPs, hospitals, community services and social care.’

It also included a timeline of key IT milestones for the digitisation of patient records, including:

  • By 2022/23, the Child Protection Information system will be extended to cover all health care settings, including general practices
  • By 2023/24 every patient in England will be able to access a digital first primary care offer
  • By 2024, secondary care providers in England, including acute, community and mental health care settings, will be fully digitised, including clinical and operational processes across all settings, locations and departments

‘Data will be captured, stored and transmitted electronically, supported by robust IT infrastructure and cyber security, and LHCRs will cover the whole country,’ it said.

Kent LMC chair and GP partner Dr Gaurav Gupta said having all patient information accessible in the same place can only be a ‘positive step’. However, he warned ‘we need to be careful that data is handled properly and securely’.

He said: ‘If you look at how IT works, primary care has been the leader in this respect. Over the last 10 years or so, GPs have been working completely on digital notes.’

‘I think for these records to work, the rest of the NHS will have to catch up with primary care to make sure they have access to the same kind of IT system and that they are digitalised the same way.’

In a recent interview with HSJ, NHS England deputy chief executive Matthew Swindells said the new records will also allow for detailed but anonymised patient information to be shared with researchers.

Under the current system, patients can opt out of sharing identifiable data for reasons beyond direct care, something they will be able to do under the new system, however they will not be able to stop their data being shared anonymously.

Last September, health secretary Matt Hancock said the inability of hospital trusts to access patients’ GP records was ‘downright dangerous’.