A single ‘Great North Care Record’ across North East England has take another step forward, with nearly all GPs practices agreeing to share their patient records.

About 369 GP practices, or 96% in the North East, have agreed to turn on information sharing, allowing secondary care providers to view the GP records of 3.6 million people.

The Great North Care Record was created 12 months ago as part of the £20 million Connected Health Cities, set up by former chancellor, George Osborne. The scheme had four projects across the North of England, with one of the main aims to improve access to patient data for researchers.

It is also one of several shared care schemes being viewed as prototype for a new national patient data collection scheme, based around regional information sharing.

Joe McDonald, Connected Heath Cities’ director and chief clinical information officer at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said that Phase 1 of the project has “delivered sharing across the region using MIG [Medical Interoperability Gateway]”.

“The big leap forward is 2,700 GPs going, ‘OK we’ll turn that on’.”

Secondary care can now view the summary care record, alongside live medication, diagnoses, blood tests and other medical information.

McDonald said for junior doctors, “the computer has for once in your life, made your life easier with all the information at your fingertips”.

Patients have to opt-in using an explicit consent model.

McDonald said this would help avoid the pitfalls that brought down the care.data national patient data extraction and sharing scheme.

Care.data was finally scrapped last year, after concerns from privacy groups and GPs about supplying patients data to researchers and private companies.

“If we’re going to digitalise the NHS, we’re going to need to be able to set our privacy settings. And once people can set their privacy settings, the whole care.data goes away because you put the citizen in charge, and they can trust you because they’re setting who sees what.”

While the information governance is the first step, the next phase of the project according to McDonald is about “information for commissioning and information for research”.

In years two and three of the project, there will be a communications campaign to ensure patients are aware of the scheme and the consent model, McDonald said.

However, he sees one of the risks as “if there’s another care.data type scandal, it could take down a lot of these regional information sharing projects”.

Last month, Digital Health News reported on a new national NHS patient “data lake” that would make both pseudonymised and identifiable patient data available for research. It was discussed in a meeting attended by NHS officials and IT suppliers, including Google DeepMind.

The four geographical regions projects in Connected Health Cities are North West Coast, Greater Manchester, North East and North Cumbria and Connected Yorkshire.

09/03/2017 – The figure of 2,700 was clarified to refer to GPs, not GP practices. 

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