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The British Medical Association (BMA) is urging doctors to begin telling their patients about the new electronic health record.

It published guidance stating patients should be made aware soon about how the record, a core element of England's NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), will hold information about their health and medical appointments.

Connecting for Health (CfH), the body in charge of NPfIT, is planning a public information campaign, but the BMA says efforts to let patients know about the NHS Care Record Service (NCRS) should begin now.

In a letter to the medical profession, BMA chair James Johnson tells doctors that the NCRS will bring significant changes to the way patient healthcare information is recorded and accessed in the NHS. The BMA urges doctors to be fully aware of these changes so they can prepare themselves for the new system and help patients with any concerns or questions.

Johnson said: "The BMA would like patients to be able to make a positive informed decision to share their medical records if they feel that is right for them. This type of approach will have the added advantage of providing an opportunity for both doctors and patients to check the accuracy of the information before it is shared.

"Patients will need to make important decisions about who can access their health information. People with medical records containing information about unwanted pregnancies, mental illness and HIV status in particular, will need to be reassured that they have the right to keep this information between themselves and their doctor.

"There has already been considerable publicity on the new health record, and until CfH puts in place a comprehensive public information campaign, we would advise doctors to start discussing the implications of introducing the new system to protect the confidential nature of the doctor/patient relationship at the heart of modern medicine."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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