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Long wait for health records

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The government has confirmed that we will need to be patient in waiting for patient care records.

Health minister Mike O'Brien told Parliament that it would be 2014 or 2015 before all health trusts had properly deployed health record systems.

Parts of the system are already up and running and a spokeswoman for Connecting for Health said many trusts would have their systems up and running before then. She said the likely date became apparent after the Public Accounts Committee report in February

The programme has been plagued with problems over its assumed consent model and over the robustness of its remaining providers. Patients had to tell their doctor if they did not wish to have their medical records available across the country. After intervention from the Information Commissioner's Office, patients were given the right to have their records deleted if they wished.

In other news the Information Commissioner's Office has warned that up to 20,000 patient records might be at risk thanks to lax data security. The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust recently lost an unencrypted compact disc with details of 20,000 cardiology patients.

The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust also admitted an unprotected memory stick was stolen with details of 143 patients. Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust left ward notes on 23 patients on a bus. It also lost two unencrypted laptops. Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust said someone stole a laptop with unencrypted data on 349 patients and 258 staff. The full statement is here, as a pdf.

The chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital said in February that the move to Cerner's electronic record system cost the hospital £10m, required 40 additional admin staff and increased waiting times for patients.

But a letter in the Guardian from a former member of staff at the Royal Free makes clear that whatever the problems with Cerner, the project was still a huge improvement on previous systems.

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