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First steps towards joined-up care for patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside

Wednesday, 22 June, 2016
First steps towards joined-up care for patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside

The first important steps towards a shared electronic health record for NHS patients living in Northumberland and North Tyneside are now well underway thanks to strong partnership working between Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and GPs.

For the first time ever, with informed patient consent, healthcare professionals working in a range of urgent and emergency care settings can now view essential information on a patient’s GP record, helping to inform key clinical decisions about their care and treatment. 

Almost all GP practices across Northumberland and North Tyneside have now signed up to the new ‘gateway’ technology – known as ‘Medical Interoperability Gateway’ (MIG) – which is already helping to deliver many key benefits in the safety and quality of patient care, particularly in urgent and emergency situations, with around 120 patients a day now benefitting from the joined-up system.   

When patients present at urgent care centres in Wansbeck, Hexham, or North Tyneside, or if they are admitted as an emergency at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, clinicians can now view their GP record, with the patient’s verbal consent, to make better informed decisions about their care. 

Equally, if any patients access urgent help from mental health services or from out-of-hours GP services, clinicians at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Doctors Urgent Care, can also view their GP record.

Patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside are now asked by NHS staff at the point they receive urgent or emergency care for their consent to allow clinicians to view their GP record and this decision is then logged by frontline teams.  Hospital and community-based teams will also be able to ask patients coming in for planned hospital treatment, or those receiving ongoing care, if they can view their GP record to help better integrate care and create a more seamless experience.

Healthcare professionals working in primary care and in hospitals across the NHS, already share key clinical information about patients on a daily basis via telephone, by post and even via fax, which is still one of the most commonly used means of transferring patient information in the NHS. 

Using technology to share information electronically is a much securer alternative and has very clear benefits for providing safer and more joined-up care for patients so that they get the right treatment, in the timeliest way.  By patients giving their consent for health professionals to view their GP record in different settings, doctors and nurses can now see:

·         current and past diagnosed conditions

·         current and past medications

·         any allergies and adverse reactions

·         test results

·         any recent encounters or visits to primary care

·         up-to-date contact details. 

Nick Lawson, North Tyneside GP and Chief Clinical Informatics Officer for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals rely on good communication with their patients – and with each other – to provide the best care possible and technology has a very important part to play.

“Information is already widely shared by phone, fax and via paper records between different teams in the NHS and the work taking place with the support of our GPs is building strong foundations as we collectively work towards a fully integrated electronic patient record for the future.

“By sharing records in this way, with the full consent of patients, means hospital colleagues, and others providing urgent or emergency care, will no longer have to wait for relevant information to begin treatment – the benefits for patient safety are very clear for all to see.”

Dr Alistair Blair, a GP in Morpeth and Chief Clinical Officer at Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:  “We live in a technology-driven world and it is vital that the NHS keeps pace with developments in order to provide the safest and highest quality of care to patients.  Creating a fully integrated electronic patient record forms a vital part of our vanguard ambitions for joining-up health and care services in Northumberland and we are delighted with the progress being made.

“The fact that hospital and other colleagues in secondary care now have the ability to view a patient’s GP record, with their consent, is a major step forward and the support from primary care to make this happen has been fantastic. 

“In future, our vision is for all healthcare professionals to be able to work from the same shared electronic patient information so that they can not only view, but also input into one core central record which patients also have access to online and via their smartphones.”

Electronic patient information sharing has already been successfully implemented in many areas of the NHS including Leeds and Nottingham as well as more locally in Cumbria and Gateshead.  The work taking place in Northumberland and North Tyneside will soon be expanded to include the North East Ambulance Service and Newcastle Hospitals so that paramedics and other hospital colleagues also have access to up-to-date patient information.

All patient medical records will still be kept completely confidential in line with strict NHS information governance requirements and the Caldicott principles which govern patient confidentiality – they will only ever be viewed, with the patient’s consent, by healthcare professionals who are directly involved in their care.