How will NHS computer's terminal illness be treated?

By Dr Ellie Canton, January 23, 2012

The NHS IT system has recently made headlines again for all the wrong reasons, and it seems we are now completely scrapping the system that has haemorrhaged so much public money.

The theory was to have a central system accessible online by all NHS agencies, the idea being that if you are being treated in an emergency department or out-of-hours service for example, the staff would have access to important information that could be essential.

This would include current medication, allergies and previous reactions to treatment.

Most GPs now have an electronic record which is based at their surgeries, but notes are not centralised. If you change GPs, the notes are normally uploaded to the new surgery, a process which is quite straightforward.

However, there is no sharing of notes between hospitals, where you will have a file, and GP surgeries, where you have another file.

Communication between the two is still via written letter.

But there is no evidence to prove that centralising notes will improve patient-care - it is a theoretical idea.

I always found it difficult to imagine how a vast intranet system would be regulated and controlled in practice. There would be a huge database of the millions of patients and staff, and no effective format for policing it had been suggested. Quite worrying when you think your records would be available to all NHS staff with access to the system nationwide.

Patients also had genuine concerns about people hacking into their records, which is understandable.

Computer systems are only as safe as the users operating them, and we have seen the UK does not have the best record on keeping sensitive information secure.

So, for now, we are going to see the back of the flawed system. I cannot say that I am disappointed - I am just nervous about what will be mooted next.

Last updated: 11:48am, January 23 2012