Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has published the much anticipated Information Strategy, which details plans to make patient data available online by 2015.
Lansley hopes that by creating an information system built on integrated solutions, within a framework of national standards that allows information to move freely and securely around the healthcare system, will help professional teams prioritise more face-to-face support.
Electronic access to the public’s own care records will start with GP records by 2015 and will extend to social care records “as soon as IT systems allow”, according to the report.
By making data available online, Lansley hopes that this will create opportunities for the general public to improve their own health and manage consequences of any illness. He wrote: “It will become normal for us to be able to access health and care services – including our own records – online”.
Data from patient records will also be combined and linked together with other data in a ‘secure environment’ and made anonymous, which will then be used to audit quality and identify trends in health.
It is intended that over time, information from combined records will replace traditional national data collections.
Furthermore, Lansley will implement a single online portal from 2013, which will be used by the public as a link to general information on health, care and support.
The report outlined that this strategy will not be led by central government through large IT contracts but instead should be viewed as a framework that hopes to drive a “localist approach”.
“This strategy deliberately avoids prescription in all but a few essential areas. This is because central organisations cannot hope to keep pace with the potential multitude of options that technological innovation will make available, nor is it appropriate to set out centrally imposed solutions that meet the needs of each and every local population,” said Lansley.
He added: “A small number of actions will need to be led nationally, such as setting common standards to allow information to flow effectively around the system.”
Central government will, however, provide funding through a capital fund that will be developed over the summer and autumn of 2012.
IT industry association Intellect urged the Department of Health (DH) to implement its information strategy quickly.
“In addition to the existing suppliers to the NHS we have more than 200 SMEs engaged in our healthcare programmes,” said Julian David, Intellect’s director general.
“However, to keep this momentum going the new strategy must be implemented quickly and provide more openness and flexibility, not the constraints and lock-down systems of the past.
He added: “We are today calling for the NHS Commissioning Board and Department of Health to ensure there are resources put in place and an urgency to fix this together with the industry and NHS.”