The NHS Commissioning Board is “likely” to mandate new a set of standards for clinical and social care records in a push to increase efficiency, HSJ has been told.

The prediction, from the Department of Health’s national clinical director for informatics Charles Gutteridge, came as a working group commissioned by the DH called for a new body to be established to develop health record standards.

The group was chaired by Dr Gutteridge and included representatives from medical professional bodies. On 24 January it recommended a “professional record standards development body” be set up, with its structure, governance and funding decided through the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges.

The group’s report said “computers require standardisation of data if they are not to create chaos”, and pointed out that improving the transfer of information between NHS bodies would cut incidents of “avoidable harm” to patients.

Dr Gutteridge told HSJ that information could only flow more freely if standard formats for electronic patient records were agreed and adhered to.

He said: “It’s likely that at some point some of these standards will have to be mandated by the commissioning board.

“Getting consistency in this area, and the efficiencies you can get from really good application of digital techniques for health management makes such a difference to how the system works, the board will mandate it to achieve the kind of efficiency savings the NHS needs to make.”

Dr Gutteridge said standardisation could make a contribution to the NHS’s quality, innovation, productivity and prevention agenda, although only some of the work could be completed before the £20bn efficiency challenge deadline of 2015.

The standards development body must be independent of the DH if it is to be credible for medical professionals, Dr Gutteridge argued.

The goal of greater “interoperability” between patient record systems was identified as a key priority in the NHS Future Forum’s report on information, which was released earlier this month.