The coalition government says it plans to instigate an “information revolution” in the National Health Service, giving patients greater control over their health records.
“Patients need and should have far more information and data on all aspects of healthcare, to enable them to share in decisions made about their care and find out much more easily about services that are available,” it said in a white paper entitled Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS – described in the foreword as a blend of Conservative and Liberal Democrat ideas.
Achieving this will involve putting patients in control of their own health records, the white paper said. “This will start with access to the records held by their GP and over time this will extend to health records held by all providers. The patient will determine who else can access their records and will easily be able to see changes when they are made to their records.”
The paper also promises that patient feedback and hospital performance records will be made publically available, which the government says will allow people to exert greater choice between health service providers. “Information will improve accountability,” the paper says. “In future, it will be far easier for the public to see where unacceptable services are being provided and to exert local pressure for them to be improved.”
Healthcare providers will be under “clear contractual obligations, with sanctions, in relation to accuracy and timeliness of data,” it adds.
The white paper also proposes that primary care trusts and strategic health authorities should be scrapped, putting GPs in charge of NHS spending instead, plan that the paper confirmed that this would result in “significant disruption and loss of jobs”. This could lead to further outsourcing of clerical functions including IT.
A government white paper indicates an intention to form policy. The Department of Health is currently in consultation over the proposals.