NHS IT Programme

Part of Opposition Day — [13th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:16 pm on 6th June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health) 1:16 pm, 6th June 2007

I am very concerned to hear about that situation. If it had happened to one of my constituents, I should have been knocking at the GP's door to ask what was going on. I shall be happy to take the information away and look into the matter because we know, and I hope the hon. Lady acknowledges, that the access times for diagnosis and treatment of cancer have improved enormously over the past 10 years. However, I am happy to talk to her about how best to represent her constituents.

It is the case that in some aspects of the programme extended consultation with end-users has led to some delays from the original timetable, which was established in 2002. One such example is the summary care record, where an extended consultation exercise with members of the public and professions working in the NHS was led by Harry Cayton, the national director for patient involvement at the Department of Health. It resulted in modifications both to the requirements and the consent model from what was proposed in 2002. Far from regretting that aspect of delay in the programme, I think it was a prudent course of action. In our opinion, to have proceeded hastily with the delivery of the system, in the absence of consensus for the consent model and the content of the summary care record, would have been ill advised.

With regard to front-line clinician support for the summary care record, I refer the House to coverage on BBC Radio Manchester on 31 March, when Dr. Natha of Kearsley medical centre in Bolton stated that patients would benefit greatly from the summary care record. For example, any doctor outside a GP practice who makes an emergency visit to a patient in the middle of the night would have an up-to-date and accurate summary of the patient record in front of them without having to put questions to an elderly patient who may or may not know the answers, or even be in a position to give them.

A point was made about the medical training application system. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has already answered questions about MTAS and we have expressed our regret for the difficulties with the system. However, it should be noted that the security and end-user assurance arrangements within the systems deployed by the national programme for IT—at this point, about 19,500 systems used by more than 350,000 front-line NHS staff—have to date prevented such difficulties from occurring. We have avoided hostages to fortune through the provision of cast-iron guarantees in that respect.

We take patients' concerns about the confidentiality of their records extremely seriously. We have established a consent model in the NHS in England that respects the wishes of patients to control the flow of their information, while establishing an arrangement that is administratively efficient and pragmatic. Although much may be heard within the confines of Westminster about the public's concerns about confidentiality, it is the case that less than 0.2 per cent. of patients in the early adopter communities for the summary care record have so far expressed a wish to opt out of the summary care record as it is launched.

It would be wrong for Opposition Members to suggest that arrangements they oversaw in the NHS, which relied on post, faxes and phone calls, were something that a 21st-century Government would want to perpetuate. It is a necessity on the grounds of efficiency and safety that the NHS move from those islands of electronic information and a dependency on paper into the 21st century, with information moving on a secure basis to support patients as they are cared for in numerous locations.