Patients to control NHS records

Elderly patient using a keyboard
Image caption Patients will be able to access and manage their own records online

Patients are to be put in charge of their medical records online under proposals for an "information revolution" in the NHS.

In the future, patients will be able to log on to keep track of their treatment and make choices about the care they will receive.

England's Department of Health says the moves, put out for consultation, should drive up standards.

It says everyone should have choice and control over their care by 2013/14.

Everyone who is cared for by the NHS in England already has formal rights to make choices about the service that they receive.

These include the right to choose a GP surgery, to state which GP you want to see, to choose which hospital you are treated at, and to receive information to support your choices.

But the government says it wants to extend this offer of choice to mental health services and end of life care too.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "We want to go further than simply offering people a choice of hospital.

"Patients should have choice at every stage of the journey - where they register with a GP, where they go for tests, who they see for treatment, and what care or treatment they receive from any willing provider.

"Above all, they should be able to change these choices at any stage."

And the government sees the internet as the key tool for patients to be able to exercise these choices.

Information revolution

It promises in its consultation an "information revolution", starting with accurate online records that summarise each patient's care.

Every patient would have a username and password and could update their records with information like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

And those requiring treatment would be able to check out different options - comparing the performance of different hospitals and doctors, for example.

Mr Lansley said: "The NHS should ensure that for patients, "no decision about me, without me" is the invariable practice.

"To realise this means patients must have more say and more choice."

Professor John Williams, Director of the Health Informatics Unit at the Royal College of Physicians said the moves were much needed.

"As it stands the management of data in the NHS leaves much to be desired.

"Useful information rarely follows the patient through the system, making it more difficult for doctors and nurses to provide them with the personalised treatment they have a right to expect."

A spokeswoman for the Patients Association said: "We have long campaigned for truly representative information on clinical outcomes and increasingly patients ask for our help in finding the consultants with the best results.

"If this revolution is to happen, that is the information patients need. Time and time again we have seen that the public cannot rely on the NHS's bureaucratic tick boxes."

In Scotland the government is funding a project to test a secure website which allows patients to take more control of their own health.

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