Opting out of electronic NHS records
Most of us will have noticed that doctors today work onscreen. Appointments and records of tests and prescriptions will come up on the surgeries’ computers and more and more, doctors will bring up your medical history on screen to ensure they are up to date with your medical situation before they start to talk to you.
The NHS has introduced a range of new computer systems and services to improve quality of care and better access to your information so that care can be quicker, safer and more personal.
One aspect of these new developments is the Summary Care Record.
A Summary Care Record is an electronic record which contains information about aspects of your medical records, including the medicines you take, allergies you suffer from and any bad reactions to medicines you have had.
The idea is that healthcare staff will be quickly and easily be able to check up to date information on you and any treatment is less likely to be delayed because your paper records may be difficult to find or somewhere else. It may mean fewer tests need to be made because records of previous tests will be readily available. Another benefit is that you should not have to repeat the same details over and over again to different doctors.
So there are lots of good benefits. The concern is that these records are held nationally and can be looked at from anywhere in the NHS in England.
This of course has real benefits. If you have an emergency away from home, or when your GP practice is closed, it means doctors anywhere in the country can quickly access your records to ensure the best treatment for you.
The problem is security. The NHS have gone to great lengths to make the system as secure as they can, and only NHS professionals who have been issued with the NHS “smartcard” will be able to access records. By law, anyone in the NHS must respect your privacy and keep all information about you safe.
There are additional safeguards - for example, if someone who doesn't usually treat you looks at your record – an alert will be sent to a member of staff. They will investigate and, if it is found that this was unreasonable, they will let you know.
However, despite this some people are very concerned. After all, many of us have nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals as friends and colleagues, and it can be understandable that there is a worry they might be able to access our very personal records.
You can opt out of having a Summary Care Record by simply filling in a form and handing it in to your GP Practice. You can change your mind later, so if you opt out now it need not necessarily be forever if you feel the security is after all sufficient.
The opt out form is available here or you can call 0300 123 3020 to get a form posted to you.
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