UHNS doctors are now able to use a new electronic record-sharing system to improve emergency treatment and patient safety in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.
For the first time, specified emergency clinicians at UHNS can now obtain information from a GP’s patient records kept by family doctors, under strictly regulated circumstances including the explicit permission of the patient.
It means emergency doctors can now quickly get potentially life-saving information about a patient covering areas such as health conditions, allergies or intolerances and that patient’s medication.
The GP Records Viewer was developed on behalf of both North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), who commission hospital services.
Leek GP, Dr Julie Oxtoby, is North Staffordshire CCG’s Clinical Director for Commissioning.
She said: “There are clearly advantages to hospital doctors being able to share medical records in emergency situations. The flip-side of the coin however is that confidentiality is fundamental to the relationship between a GP and their patient.
“This is why we have commissioned a system that allows access to GP records by hospital doctors, but only under strictly regulated conditions, for very specific purposes, and for a limited period of time.
“We have involved patient representatives groups throughout the development of the process, and information is available for anyone who has concerns. They can get this from CCG websites, GP surgeries and at UHNS.”
UHNS doctors are only able to obtain the information on patients registered at a majority of GP practices across Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle Borough or the Staffordshire Moorlands, but these patients form the overwhelming majority of emergency admissions to the hospital. Patients may also choose to deny access by informing their GP.
If at the time of emergency treatment hospital clinicians consider they need to obtain specified information from the patient’s GP records they must seek consent and register that it was given. The patient can always refuse to give permission. If the patient is not fit to provide permission because of their medical condition doctors may still obtain the information if it is deemed vital for the patient’s survival.
Dr Mark Ragoo of University Hospital North Staffordshire said: “Our doctors will not be routinely accessing GP records. However there are times when having that ability will be extremely useful. For instance, we may wish to administer a drug and want an extra safeguard to ensure it will not cause an adverse reaction to an individual patient.
“We will only have access to GP records for as long as the patient is being treated up to a maximum of 24 hours. We will not be able to make a copy of a record, print them out or make any alterations. We always need to seek the permission of the patient.”