[Mr. Mike Weir in the Chair] — Electronic Patient Record

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 21st February 2008.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Health Committee 2:30 pm, 21st February 2008

Right. I thought that the Minister was going to say that it had been lost again.

The brief then states that the details of 25 million parents and children have been lost, which I accept. The issue involves management of systems and human interaction with them. Sadly, we can introduce all the legislation and regulations that we want, but we will always find problems within the system. My issue with some BMA members is that that is not a reason not to go ahead with using information technology to bring health care into the 21st century.

We have online banking, and some 25 per cent. of adults now bank online—I do not, but 14 million people do. It seems that nobody really worries about that. We have credit card fraud. It normally occurs when a bill is paid in a restaurant and the customer is not standing nearby. Somebody photocopies or scans the card details and then sends them on. We have to worry about that.

In a sense, I worry about the BMA, or should I say its leadership. The brief states:

"Concern about the risks of patient data prompted doctors to call for 'the BMA to advise all its members not to cooperate with the proposed centralised storage of all medical records as this serious endangers patient confidentiality'."

I am not a clinician, but one could well argue that not having a central database could be a matter of life or death. If I am on holiday in Torquay and keel over in the road because of a long-term condition, it may not immediately be obvious what the problem is. In some parts of the world, they have systems where medical people can immediately find out what is wrong with someone.

The detailed care record is dealt with in recommendation 229. I shall not read it all out, but we started by saying that

"there is a perplexing lack of clarity about exactly what NPfIT will not deliver. It is not clear what information will be recorded and shared on DCR systems, nor the range of organisations that will be able to share information."

We are years down the road of developing this system, but I have to say that there is a real question mark about the development of patient records in the United Kingdom since the venture began. I am pleased that the Government have accepted the recommendation. Their response states:

"There have been changes to NHS organisational boundaries and a review of the information-sharing arrangements is already under way with strategic health authorities (SHAs) and suppliers."

I am pleased about that. Actually, I am sponsoring a Room in the House in a few weeks' time for my own SHA, which will bring its IT people to show Yorkshire and Humberside Members of all political parties exactly what they are now doing. I know that we have had some restructuring of SHAs, but that should have been done years ago, and the public should have been seeing things like that years ago. I am pleased that that will happen.

I must revert to what The Independent called our "expensive" trip. We saw a detailed care record in situ in a hospital. Health professionals go to a single screen to start with. They can examine blood tests going back over weeks, if not months, and consider the issues, even if the patient is under anaesthetic in a theatre situation. We did not go that far, but we saw that they can access information, and we saw the amount of information that is held in a detailed care record. The improvement in patient safety is a really good thing.

The Committee and I were surprised that the detail of what will be on the care record has still not been agreed overall. However, we saw the interface at Homerton hospital, although Homerton was pre-this system. Two London hospitals are now up and running with the working detailed care record system.

Who will hold the detailed care records? Obviously, they will be held in general practitioner surgeries and possibly at the local hospital, too. However, if, for example, someone has an unusual condition and comes to London now and again to see a specialist, would the information be shared with that specialist? Such questions still abound. I do not have a problem, but we ought to know by now the exact make-up and shape of the detailed care records.