A recommendation for there to be “a single repository of the whole practice of consultants across England” has been accepted by the government but it has admitted there are “many challenges” in order to achieve it.

Today (December 16), the government published its response to the 15 recommendations which were made in the independent inquiry into surgeon Ian Paterson – who is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for 17 counts of wounding with intent. His trial raised serious questions about how surgery in the independent sector is regulated and assured and about the oversight of doctors who work across the NHS and private sector.

One of the recommendations was that “there should be a single repository of the whole practice of consultants across England”.

The recommendation adds: “This should be accessible and understandable to the public. It should be mandated for use by managers and healthcare professionals in both the NHS and the independent sector.”

The government has said it has accepted the recommendation “in principle”, adding that “there are many challenges in moving towards a single repository”.

The document states “significant progress” has been made towards the collection of consultant performance data in the independent sector and the NHS and makes reference to the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt). The initiative, which was launched by NHS Digital and the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), saw the NHS begin recording data from the private healthcare sector for the first time.

As part of its response, the government said this data will be “made available for managers and healthcare professionals across the system”.

It adds: “Over the next 12 months, we commit to reaching a decision with key stakeholders on what information can be published and whether further government action will be needed to achieve this.”

The response from the government has been welcomed by PHIN which said “it will continue to play its part in producing better information for patients”.

Matt James, PHIN’s chief executive, added: ““It is encouraging to see the importance of PHIN’s work recognised. Better information will inevitably lead to better patient safety.

“Until we have comprehensive information produced to a publishable standard, we have not done all that we can to keep patients safe.”

Putting things into simple language

Another recommendation which was accepted by the government was: “It should be standard practice that consultants in both the NHS and the independent sector should write to patients, outlining their condition and treatment, in simple language, and copy this letter to the patient’s GP, rather than writing to the GP and sending a copy to the patient.”

In response, the government said that over the next 12 months it will explore with providers how they can change their systems in order to help make the recommendation possible.

This move was welcomed by the Professional Records Standards Body (PRSB) – an organisation which represents those who receive and provide health and social care across the UK, as well as those providing the IT systems that support care.

Maureen Baker, chair of the PRSB, said: “Openness is critical for safe healthcare and all consultants should be writing directly to patients to ensure they have the right information to make informed decisions about their health, treatment options and care. Writing directly to people is a practical way of meeting the personalisation goals of the NHS and making people active participants in their own care.

“The PRSB has fully supported the ‘Please, write to me’ guidance published by the AoMRC [Academy of Medical Royal Colleges], which along with all PRSB standards (particularly the outpatient letter information standard), emphasises the importance of writing to people in a person-centred way. It supports consultants to write directly to patients in language that is commonly understandable to non-clinicians, and then to copy this letter to GPs.

“As a result, care records will contain all the detail necessary for GPs to administer high quality care but the information will be transparent and clear, providing patients with greater understanding and control over their health and care information.

“We are reaffirming our commitment to this practice and calling on all clinicians to drive this culture shift towards making writing directly to people the norm. We recommend the full implementation of the Paterson Inquiry’s recommendations for safer care and better patient outcomes.”