A bill to mandate the use of a common patient identifier across the health and social care system is set to become law after passing its final reading in the House of Lords.
The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, which proposes to mandate the use of a common patient identifier across the health and social care system, passed its third reading this week unamended and will now become law, subject to royal assent.
The private member’s bill was put forward by Conservative MP for Stafford Jeremy Lefroy with the aim of updating the Health and Social Care Act 2012 with several provisions around the safety and quality of patient care.
One of the bill’s main amendments is a duty for the health secretary to specify a “consistent identifier” that can track an individual across all health and social care services, including hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes.
As previously reported by EHI News, this is likely to be the current NHS Number, although a final decision has not been made.
The use of a common identifier is in line with the National Information Board’s Personalised Health and Care 2020 IT framework, which says the Department of Health is working with NHS England, the Health and Social Care Information Centre and local authorities “to agree how the NHS Number can be universally adopted”.
Other aspects of the bill that will impact health and social care in England include a duty for organisations to share information for the benefit of the direct care of the patient, as well as a duty on the health secretary to introduce regulation that means NHS services must cause ‘no avoidable harm’ to patients unless it is unreasonable to avoid doing so.
Lefroy told EHI News he is “delighted” at the passage of the bill, which intends to create “systems and a culture which have patient safety at their heart”.
Regarding the data aspects of the bill, Lefroy said: “It puts two of the tools for integrating health and social care in place – a single patient identifier and a duty to share information in the interests of the care of the patient (while still fully respecting statutory and common law requirements for maintaining patient confidentiality). “
In a comment piece for his local paper, he added that a single patient identifier is “vital as we move towards integrated health and social care”.
“Constituents have told me of occasions when their patient records have not followed them as they move between different providers.”
The bill has had a relatively smooth passage through the houses, with support from all the major parties.
Concerns have been raised by some groups, however, including Phil Booth of healthcare privacy campaign group medConfidential ,who said in June last year that the use of the NHS Number in shared information will make it “much more readily available for uses other than patients’ direct care”.
Similar concerns were also raised by the British Medical Association in a briefing to members of the House of Lords ahead of the committee stage of the bill on 13 March.