Health Committee calls for government action on delayed patient record systems

The Government must act to ensure the success of NHS Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems and overcome delays.

The Government must act to ensure the success of NHS Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems and overcome delays.

The House of Commons Health Committee has released a report on the delayed EPR systems, saying they are vital for the future of healthcare in England.

The systems form a central plank of the Government's £12.4bn National Programme for IT project.

However, the report says, the delivery of the NHS Care Records Service (NCRS) has been hampered by "unclear communication and a worrying lack of progress on implementing local systems".

Delivery of some parts of the EPR project have been delayed by up to two years and the Committee calls for a more localised approach by NHS Connecting for Health- the organisation responsible for EPR systems - to speed up the implementation of the programme.

According to the report, arrangements for creating and adding information to the national Summary Care Record, which will contain basic health information, have been poorly communicated to patients and clinicians, and more rigorous evaluation of security for the new system is required.

The Government must communicate more clearly with patients about its plans for new EPR programmes and set timetables for completion of the new systems, said the Committee.

Delays to the delivery of local Detailed Care Record systems, which will share a wide range of health information between local providers, are criticised by the Committee. These systems are the "holy grail" for the EPR programme but according to the report it is not clear when they will be widely available.

The Committee also expresses concern that outsourcer iSoft's Lorenzo system, which is to be installed in hospitals across the North and the Midlands, will not be trialled until at least 2008, leaving organisations relying on "increasingly outdated systems" to support patient care.

Such delays have caused local clinicians and managers to lose confidence in the programme, said the Committee.

The Committee recommends that the Government ensures that regional Local Service Providers publish clear plans and a timetable for the completion of Detailed Care Record systems, and sets a final deadline for the successful installation of the Lorenzo system.

The report calls for more involvement by local NHS organisations and clinical groups in the implementation of Detailed Care Record systems, and more choice for users about what systems they will receive.

The Committee also points to the need for efforts to develop national standards for recording clinical information.

Kevin Barron, chairman of the Health Committee, said, "Whilst the Government is getting the framework in place, it still has some way to go before patients and the profession can see tangible benefits of the new system.

"There is no doubt that the use of IT in the NHS has the potential to make positive improvements in patient care, but this will only happen if people in the health service, particularly doctors, play a positive role in its implementation."

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