The NHS’ own health organiser, HealthSpace, has been confirmed as an unlikely casualty of the NHS information strategy, published earlier this week.
In a speech today, Dr Charles Gutteridge, the national clinical director for informatics at the Department of Health, confirmed that HealthSpace would cease to exist in the next 12 months.
Even though the strategy makes giving patients access to their records a key part of its vision for improving access to information, and HealthSpace was developed to give patients access to their Summary Care Record, Dr Gutteridge said he could not make the technology work.
“It is too difficult to make an account. It is too difficult to log on. It is just too difficult,” he told the Westminster Forum event.
“I don’t think I’m hiding anything if I say to you that we will not continue with HealthSpace. We will close it down over the next year or so.”
HealthSpace was originally developed by NHS Connecting for Health as an online organiser. The last, Labour government gave the go-ahead for it to become the route for patients to access their SCRs in 2007.
CfH subsequently put together an ambitious business case to expand the service to 4m users and to enhance its functionality to include a ‘Facebook-style communicator’ that patients could use to contact clinicians.
However, the plans were apparently shelved in summer 2009 after a review by the Treasury, even though reports that the service might be revived have surfaced periodically.
HealthSpace merited just a single mention in the ‘Power of Information’ strategy, in a paragraph saying that the best elements of the service would be incorporated into a new, national portal for patients.
The strategy says this portal will also incorporate elements of NHS Choices, NHS Direct online, and NHS 111 online, and be the main way for patients to contact the national NHS after NHS 111 and 999.
Unlike NHS Choices, however, it seems unlikely to host patient comments about services, since another part of the strategy says that the government wants to see third parties take over this role.
Dr Gutteridge told the Westminster forum that the DH needed to create a new portal through which patients could view their SCRs.
The information strategy does not mention the SCR. It says that patients will be able to see their GP records online by 2015, and that the government has an ambition to give them access to other health records over time.