NHS rejects fears over roll out of medical database

THE NHS in North Yorkshire has begun transferring medical records on to an electronic database to help boost life-saving treatment for hundreds of thousands of patients.

But health chiefs have maintained strict procedures will be in place to protect patients’ confidential records, which can be accessed by doctors anywhere in the country.

Angela Wood, NHS North Yorkshire and York’s assistant director of informatics, said: “Anything that can be done to save vital minutes in the treatment of patients can only be a good thing.

“When the new database starts to save lives, hopefully the concerns about the new procedures will diminish.

“An awful lot of work has gone into developing the new system, and we do believe that this is a major step forward in the provision of healthcare.”

The organisation has been planning the introduction of the scheme for more than 18 months after details were first announced by the previous Labour government.

Only authorised staff with a chip-and-pin NHS smartcard who are involved in a patient’s treatment will be able to access the information stored on the database. Unlike the existing paper records, an audit trail is generated when a patient’s details are viewed on the computer database.

Patients have been given the chance to opt out of the new system, and a mail-shot was sent to residents across North Yorkshire to make them aware of the choices they had. Figures show just 0.9 per cent of the county’s patients have opted out, although Mrs Wood stressed every effort was being made to raise awareness of the new procedures.

In March last year, British Medical Association (BMA) members voiced “huge concern” over the speed with which the programme was being implemented.