Launched last summer the Scottish Emergency Care Summary is already proving a success making out-of-hours communications more efficient and effective.

Libby Morris, chair of SCIMP told E-Health Insider Primary Care: “Following a public information campaign about the ECS, through leaflets delivered to all 2.5 million households in the country and a further 400,000 copies of the leaflet distributed to GP practices, primary and secondary care services, we were able to successfully go-live across all 14 NHS boards.”

The half million pound campaign gave full details of how patients could opt-out of ECS. Some five million records are now on the system and to date just 174 patients have opted out.

NHS staff will have to ask the patient’s permission before they can look at the ECS, except in the event the patient is unconscious or unable to give consent.

The system makes it possible to check who has looked at the patient’s ECS. Patients can ask their GP to show them the information in their own summary.

The ECS contains important basic information such as name, date of birth, Community Health Index (patient ID number used in Scotland), medication prescribed by a GP and any adverse reactions to prescribed medicines.

Dr Ian Kerr, an Edinburgh GP, who sits on the SCIMP board and chairs iSoft’s Scottish Users Group told EHI Primary Care: “Since rolling out, the scheme has been a success. Out of Hours teams and A&E departments in particular are finding the system very useful.”

He added that he would like to see IT reduce the need for re-entering data, and in the future see the ECS systems further integrated with out-of-hours services, the ambulance service and NHS 24

Plans are now in place to begin the switch over to electronic records and NHS Scotland is aiming to store and link full health records electronically by 2010 – beginning implementation in spring 2007.

A Gold Standards Framework Scotland (GSFS) IT development project has been established which aims to provide electronic patient records in one place helping those with cancer and palliative care needs in particular.

Dr Kerr explained: “GSFS will support clinicians to do the right thing at the right time, making it easy to have the best possible information available for forward planning, team review, consistent communication and sharing critical information.”

Staff will be able to fill in the patient record forms using the system, which can be saved electronically and then accessed by authorised staff. These will replace current paper-based tools and be integrated into existing practice IT systems.

Morris told EHI Primary Care: “Patient-clinician interaction is important. Patients should know what is going on and who knows what about them. They must give explicit consent for information to be released, and trust the clinician not to abuse details which can be sensitive.”

The ECS has been piloted by various trusts, accident and emergency units and focus groups since its initial launch in October 2005. Dr Kerr believes that the success of its national launch is thanks to the large amount of feedback received from patients, clinicians and administration staff.