Centrally-held electronic records of core patient information could save lives and should be available in emergency situations, a Department of Health review has found.

A study of Summary Care Records (SCRs) concluded that storing information such as medications, allergies and demographic details would be valuable in ensuring safe treatment.

The opt-out system was introduced earlier this year, but was suspended in April after the British Medical Association warned that it was being rolled-out too quickly.

A second review found that additional safeguards should be introduced to make sure patients are sufficiently informed about what is being held on them.

As well as the initial opt out, people will be contacted by letter to tell them that a record will be created. A opt out form and pre-paid envelope will be included.

An awareness campaign will be rolled out to notify those contacted during SCR’s initial introduction that a record is being created for them.

The review, led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh and involving leading patient groups, agreed that doctors should have access to essential medical information in emergency situations and that it should be clearly defined what is kept on a central database.

A second study into how patients are informed of their choices concluded that it would be a waste of money to write again to the 30 million people already contacted.

Instead efforts should be made at local, regional and national level to reiterate that they have a choice not to be included in the scheme.

Health minister Simon Burns said: “I am pleased that a consensus has emerged about the importance of the SCR in supporting safe patient care, as long as the core information contained in it is restricted to medication, allergies and adverse reactions.”

A BMA spokesman said: “We welcome the progress that has been made towards an emergency electronic record that supports urgent care, yet recognises many of the understandable concerns of patients and clinicians.

“Much will depend on the way the amended scheme is put into practice, and the BMA looks forward to continuing our work with government on its implementation.

“It is essential that patients have genuine control over who has access to their records, and when changes are made to them.”