A new acute GP service developed by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board will use Individual Health Records from 29 GP practices in Swansea.

The IHR will be used as part of the new service at the city’s Singleton Hospital, which is intended to relieve pressure on hospital admissions by acting as a "gateway" between local GPs and secondary care.

The IHR provides a summary of all of the coded data that is held in a patient’s GP record, including medical problems, recorded allergies, and the results of any recent tests or x-rays.

When a patient attends the acute GP unit, they will be asked for their permission to view the record by a doctor, who will explore whether an alternative to an admission to hospital might be more appropriate.

Dr Jane Harrison, assistant medical director for primary care at the health board, said it was essential to "use information technology to care for patients as safely and effectively as possible."

"The IHR will provide GPs with all the key information they need when patients attend the acute GP unit.

“Having access to the summary of a patient’s past medical history and medications will ensure that doctors are treating people in the full knowledge of any conditions that may affect their management," she explained.

The IHR was originally designed for emergency and unscheduled care and to meet the concerns of GPs is read-only.

First suggested in 2005, the system now holds more than 2m records and NHS Wales believes it has helped to improve the quality, safety and convenience of patient care.

Dr Chris Johns, clinical lead at the Swansea acute GP unit, said that deploying the IHR "is a real step in the right direction.”

"When a GP calls to discuss an admission, we now have information at our fingertips allowing us to focus on the acute problem. It’s great stuff."

Dr Julian Costello, clinical lead at the NHS Wales Information Service for the IHR, said that there will be further developments of the record, increasing its functionality in clinical settings.

"We have piloted it in Aneurin Bevan Health Board in the medical assessment unit and we want to make this available to the Welsh clinical portal once we have sorted out the security concerns," he said.

Read more about Chris Thorne’s visit to the NHS Wales Information Service’s labs in Swansea in Insight.