Government urges data sharing pilots

NHS Connecting for Health is seeking interest from local authorities in piloting systems to share information between social services departments and the planned NHS National Care Record Service (NCRS).

The electronic record service — with a summary care record and, eventually, a detailed care record for each patient — is at the heart of the NHS’s US$25 billion National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

But the record service has been controversial, with doctors repeatedly expressing concerns about patient consent and the confidentiality of the electronic records, which are to be uploaded to a national data “spine”. Last month, the British Medical Association wrote to health minister Ben Bradshaw calling for a halt to the roll-out of the summary care record until the results of the pilots have been reviewed.

MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee have also criticized a “worrying lack of progress” on implementing local systems to support the NCRS. So far only four of the six planned pilot areas for the summary record have been named.

Despite this, Connecting for Health is pushing ahead its Social Care Integration Project, aimed at integrating social services and NHS systems to support care for people who require services from both.

The project aims to set technical standards for information exchange between health and social services and develop a national electronic messaging system to support integrated assessment and care planning processes for adults who receive both NHS and social services.

A call for expressions of interest — issued jointly by Connecting for Health and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services — is seeking participants for a pilot scheme, which will ensure that the main social services IT systems comply with NCRS information governance requirements and link them to the personal demographic service that forms part of the NHS data spine.

This would later allow information sharing between the agencies to take place — subject to patient consent — with individuals identified by basic information and their NHS number held in the personal demographic service.

The pilot schemes are expected to begin in 2007-08 and finish the following year.

Earlier this month, Connecting for Health created a new clinical director post to oversee the introduction of summary care records in a bid to boost the clinical leadership of the scheme and reassure doctors.

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