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Among the problems found are out-of-date medicines in doctors’ surgeries, drugs not stored at the correct temperatures and some practices not having the expertise needed to deliver basic safe care.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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

    £15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food