Failure to join up medical records is a 'health risk’, says GP chief inspector

All patients should have access to their own records, he claims

whitehall editor

Patients’ lives are being put at risk by basic failures to link up medical records held by hospitals and those kept by their family doctors – many of whom are providing “unacceptably” poor care – the chief inspector of GPs warns today.

In an interview with The Independent, Dr Steve Field said it was absurd that consultants are still writing letters to GPs with details of the treatment that they have recommended for their patients, rather than adding them to a combined medical record.

Dr Field said it was equally detrimental to patient care that hospitals did not have access to routine information such as blood tests that were carried out in the community.

He said all patients across England should be given access to their own complete medical records and not in a piecemeal fashion, whereby some parts of the country have implemented such a system and others  have not.

He also detailed how early trials of a new inspection regime for England’s 8,000 GP practices had uncovered widespread variations in care across the country, and a small minority of doctors who were unsafe to practise.

Among the problems found are out-of-date medicines in doctors’ surgeries, drugs not stored at the correct temperatures and some practices not having the expertise needed to deliver basic safe care.

Dr Field, who last year became the first chief inspector of general practice in the NHS’s history, was speaking as part of The Independent’s focus on the role of chief inspectors in the public sector.

Starting from next month, he will be rolling out a national scheme of inspection across around 8,000 GP practices in England. Under the scheme each practice will be rated “outstanding”, “good”, “needs improvement” or “inadequate”. Those judged inadequate will be placed in to special measures and could be shut down.

Dr Field said that, while he had been impressed by the quality of electronic records held in those GP practices he had inspected so far, he was much more concerned about how they linked up with hospitals and other services such as out-of-hours care.

“Shared records are the most important thing,” he said. “If you are seen in my practice and you get admitted to hospital – they should be able to have access to all your blood tests.

“In fact, they are all done on the same computer system but there is a ‘wall’ between the hospitals and the GPs. They should be able to have access to that. It will save money and it will save lives.”

He added: “Why are we sending letters to doctors or emails to doctors when it is actually in the same record? You should be able to read the plans in the record.

“In general practice we are finding the record keeping is very, very good but hospitals are behind us.”

Dr Field added that one way would be to give patients access to their own records – a system pioneered, in an attempt to restore patient confidence, by Amir Hannan, the GP in Hyde who took over the practice of Harold Shipman.

“It was very difficult to recruit to Shipman’s practice because of [the lack of] trust locally. But Amir went in and said, ‘Right from the start I will share everything with my patients, and gave them access to all their own records.

“He’s got examples of patients being admitted to hospital where they have had to show the consultants their record which may have saved their lives. It’s policy to try and make it happen. But it’s not moving quickly enough.”

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

    Early Years Educator

    £68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

    Nursery Nurse

    £69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

    Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam