Shared care records are helping to improve patient outcomes and further the goal of integrated care, but funding must be made sustainable, Integrated Care System (ICS) leaders told a Digital Networks Exchange event last month. 

The session on “ICS Digital Priorities Unveiled: Shaping the Future of the NHS”, focused on shared care records and wider issues associated with the digital maturity agenda.  

Hannah Wall, stakeholder relationship senior manager for the Connecting Care Records Programme at NHS England, told the audience at Horizon Leeds that full deployment of the National Record Locator Service (NRLS) – a project to link shared care records across the country to enable clinicians to access patient information nationally for direct care purposes – continues to be key part of the national agenda. She added that 20% of acute provision for patients takes place outside their home integrated care board. 

The NHSE program is commissioned to March 2025 to build on the existing network of shared records with five core priorities: a record-sharing strategy that avoids duplication; interoperability between shared care records with an emphasis on creating a read-only shared care record at the NRLS level; levelling up shared care records, including links with primary and secondary care and expansion of their length and breadth; convergence of records; and sustainability. 

Embedding in a community 

Laura Godtschalk, shared care record programme manager at Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland ICS (LLR), said that LLR’s decision in April 2020 to form a partnership with the Interweave shared care portal allowed it to join a community of other ICSs that had already been using Interweave’s application for some time “so we could learn and try to walk a trodden path.”  

Health and social care organisations were already working together in LLR, Godtschalk said, and the shared care records project helped to bring them closer together.

Although interoperability and organisational digital maturity posed huge challenges, getting staff engaged in helping to design the system “helped with embedding and the use and that transfer of it to a thing actually being used on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

“We’re hearing some absolutely brilliant stories coming back of where the benefits have been realised and people are saving time.”  

LLR is currently looking at how shared records can be used to empower patients and improve preventative healthcare “as part of direct care, not necessarily just as public health management,” Godtschalk said, adding that efforts are underway to link records into the NHS App.  

“A shared care record is not a national product; it is something held by local ICBs, and we see real value in putting suppliers together to get the benefits associated with that,” she said. 

Shared care records are already contributing to better care management, said Joe McGuigan, ICB director of digital operations and assurance for Lancashire and South Cumbria, noting that across some 600 care homes in his region, 1200 hospital admissions have been avoided since the shared records were introduced. 

During the Q&A session, audience members and speakers reflected on the challenges in making projects such as shared care records sustainable without devolving more funding from the national to the ICB level. Wall acknowledged that NHSE is committed to ensuring the sustainability of shared care records post 2025, and helping ICBs to do this. 

The most recent Digital Health Networks Exchange event took place this month in London, where it was highlighted that results from the first year of the Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA) have shown that only 10 to 30% of the 90% of NHS trusts with an electronic patient record (EPR) have key functionality and are therefore making full use of their system.