The Department of Health’s director general of informatics has confirmed that the government plans to provide patients with the ability to ‘control’ who can access to their electronic records, rather than views or summaries.

Speaking to E-Health Insider after her presentation at eHealth Insider Live 2010 in Birmingham, Christine Connelly said “control means just that, it’s not a shorthand for anything else." 

Connelly said that the health secretary fully understood that control was technically more demanding than access or views of patient records. The term was not the result of imprecise use of language, she added.

Instead, she said that Andrew Lansley was very clear that he wanted patients to be able to control their records and “to place patients at the centre of the care around them”, rather than a technically easier alternative.

“So it’s my job to now deliver that,” she said. “He understands the scale of that ambition, the difference between access and control and the limits to that."

However, she said that giving patients such control would not be easy and would not happen quickly.

She also said that control would have sensible limits. “If you take choice all the way through you could have the patient take the record out of the system. That would mean we’d have no record; we won’t go that far.”

The starting place will be GP records. The notion of control forms part of the government’s patient choice agenda, summarised by Lansley in the mantra, “no decision about me, without me”.

It is envisaged that such an approach would also enable patients to “donate data” from their record. “A patient might want t o donate their data to Cancer Research UK, for instance,” said Connelly.

This would appear to once again open the possibility for personal health record services from the likes of Bupa, Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault, something the Conservatives signalled they favoured last summer.