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NHS data sharing bill on fast track

21/11/14

Stethescope and keyboardHealth and care organisations will be required to share patient data, after the government threw its weight behind a backbench bill which will also enforce the use of the NHS patient identifier.

Ministers announced they were supporting legislation put forward by a Conservative MP to prevent a repeat of the "dreadful" failures exposed in the Mid Staffordshire scandal.

It means the bill - which would normally run out of parliamentary time - is almost certain to become law before next May's general election.

The legislation will introduce:

* The "appropriate sharing" of information, to deliver more effective and integrated care - but not where it "contains confidential information about another person".

* A consistent "patient identifier" in people's health and care records, assessments and care plans, by adopting the use of the NHS number introduced in the late 1990s.

Explaining his Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill, Tory backbencher Jeremy Lefroy said the aim was to reduce "avoidable harm" by setting out in law what is expected of staff.

A recent study had estimated around 12,000 people a year die in avoidable circumstances in hospitals alone, Lefroy said.

And he added: "It seeks to make sure the focus on safety and quality of care we are seeing is not only maintained but strengthened and, most importantly, cannot be reversed.

"By making clear in law what is expected of those providing healthcare, it will go a long way to doing so."

The bill is being taken forward after its original proposer - fellow Conservative George Freeman - was promoted to health minister.

Earlier this year, Freeman said existing plans to allow hospitals and GPs to tap into electronic patients' records did not go far enough, proposing a legal duty to pass them on.

He predicted a healthcare revolution similar to the way "electronic and telephone banking empowered millions of banking consumers to take more responsibility for their finances".

Last week, NHS England pledged to deliver that revolution, with patients told they would enjoy digital access to their records across the NHS, by 2018.

Now speaking as a minister, Freeman said: "We fully support this bill. Mid Staffs was a turning point for the NHS and Jeremy Lefroy's proposed measures are a major step forward in making the NHS safer."

Brian Andrews, from the Marie Curie charity, said: "Lack of coordinated care and lack of information sharing between professionals, their patients and carers, can have a detrimental impact."

 

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