The Department of Health is to review the scope of access to the NHS Care Records Service, including the possibly of making them available to non-NHS staff. 

Under the proposals the DH will look at making the electronic patient records available to a much wider range of groups involved in patient care, including social care bodies, voluntary and private sector organisations and pharmacy, dental and optical services.

The plan is published today in ‘Our vision for Primary and Community Care’ report, published today as part of the Next Stage Review of the NHS.

The DH says the aim of widening access to the CRS is to ensure that patients can be quickly given vital information in any care settings. The aim is to achieve more integrated care between all care settings – both within and outside of the NHS.

The report says: “To support more integrated care, we will review the scope of access to NHS Care Records Service to embrace a fuller range of organisations that provide care to NHS patients, including social care, voluntary and private sector organisations and pharmacy, dental and optical services.

“Our aim is for health professionals to be able to provide the best care and advice to patients quickly by accessing the information they need (e.g. on medical history or medication) from any setting.”

The next stage review for Primary and Community Care says that improved information and information tools will be used to ensure that patients get the care they deserve from primary and community care.

“We will assess the key improvements in information management and technology systems that are needed to improve data sharing, speed up access to appointments, support evidence-based practice and underpin strategic commissioning,” says the report.

“Our vision for Primary and Community Care’ makes clear the central role that improved information use are expected to play: “We live in an information age. Companies succeed when they seek out ever more sophisticated ways of understanding their customers, listening and responding to their views. GP practices and other primary and community care teams should do the same.”

Today’s report also gives more details on the central role NHS Choices will play in helping realise the goals set out for the next decade.

“We will create a secure web-based system on NHS Choices called ‘HealthSpace’. This will allow people to access their personal health record, and update it frequently with information about their condition.

“It will facilitate communication between the individual and their care team, as well as allowing people to book appointments and request repeat prescriptions.”

Later this year, a national ‘Patients’ Prospectus’ will also be published on the NHS Choices website setting out choices which should be available for self care, such as telemedicine devices.

More comparative information about the range of services offered by GP practices – including their performance against quality indicators, as well as a “simpler way of registering electronically within a GP practice”. Patients will also be able to leave feedback on the website,

New information tools will be piloted to compare clinical quality, clinical productivity and patient experience in community health services and the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QoF) will be reviewed, as reported earlier this week.

Health minister, Ben Bradshaw, said more points should be given for prevention than the 5% offered at the moment.

“We want QoF to reflect our objectives of promoting healthy lives. I’d like to see much more focus on points for prevention and ensuring the patient population is receiving the best medical advice possible, though this is currently under discussion and by no means set in stone,” he said.

The report says NICE and patient groups are reviewing this to attempt to reduce the number of organisational or process indicators, and instead offer a series of quality indicators, which GP practices will be able to choose from. This will include patient recorded outcome measures.

As part of the new legal right to free choice of where patients go fro treatments, this will be published on NHS Choices “ to provide much greater transparency about the quality of local services and support the public in making more informed choices about which services to use.”

A process has been started to look into a new three-digit number to help find local services for urgent unplanned care needs and the report pledges that ‘the public should not expect to have to pay more than the cost of a local call when telephoning their practice.’

More support and development for PCTs to use in commissioning are also pledged including the use of predictive modelling and risk stratification tools, and the development of datasets to allow commissioners to collect, analyse and publish information, which can then be broken down for reporting purposes.

Bradshaw said: “Britain’s primary care system is the envy of the world, which many others wish they had. We should look to improve it and ensure it keeps its well-earned status.”

As EHI reported earlier this week the next-stage review says integrated care organisations will be piloted bringing together health and social care professionals from a range of organisations – community services, hospitals, local authorities and others.

‘Our vision for Primary and Community Care’ expands on this saying “These pilots will test a range of innovative approaches for transforming patient services… we will pilot how primary and community clinicians can work in a more integrated way with local hospitals to provide seamless care and high-quality health outcomes.”

The DH’s national director for primary care, Professor David Colin-Thomé, told a press conference this morning: “The integrated pilots will be fundamental to linking primary care services with organisations such as local authorities and acute hospitals and providing patients with the best joined-up care possible in a simple, seamless approach.”

A new ministerial-led group will be formed to identify how best to support the organisations who wish to go further in integrating health and social care.


Our Vision for Primary and Community Care