Scotland has embarked on its own NHS IT project, seemingly undaunted by the lack of progress in its England and Wales counterpart.
The £300 million move means doctors will be able to access basic information from patients' files during an emergency in hospital. The current Scottish system requires staff to ask permission to access their electronic files, unless they are unconscious, and patients can opt out of the electronic summary.
The English NHS IT project aims to transfer all health paper records to a database, but in Scotland the ambition is smaller. The Scottish Executive is creating a smaller electronic summary of basic information about a patient which may be needed in an emergency, such as drugs to which they are allergic.
Health minister Andy Kerr said: “Currently, most health information is stored on paper files that are kept in different places. The services provided in this contract will help prepare the health service for the future and ensure patient records are stored in a secure electronic environment.
"For example, if someone requires emergency treatment outwith their health board area, clinicians will be able to quickly find out if the patient is on any medication or has suffered an adverse reaction to any medication in the past."
Meanwhile a national newspaper poll of 1,026 doctors in England found that while most believed an electronic record would bring clinical benefits to patients, 51 percent were unwilling to allow people's data to be uploaded without their permission.
An 11-year deal for IT services in Scotland has been struck with a consortium comprising IT firms Atos Origin, Sopra Newell & Budge, BT and IBM. The consortium will have more than 350 people working for the NHS, working from sites across the country including Livingston and Edinburgh.
Professor Stuart Bain, chief executive of NHS National Services Scotland, said: "The IT services supplied under this contract will help provide NHS Scotland with the information it needs to deliver effective healthcare and the technology needed to deliver that information to the right person at the right time." NHS Scotland has signed a $569 million outsourcing contract with Atos Origin to extend its provision of principal end-to-end IT services for the next 11 years.
Atos Origin will provide IT infrastructure, data center hosting, security management, help desk, business continuity, application development and support and network services. The deal also involves a $13.7 million investment to set up a new data centre in Livingston to host and support infrastructure, applications and vital patient data.