• Summary care record to move to regional patient records, which will eventually replace it.
  • Regional records will be linked to create a single national “longitudinal” record
  • Anonymised linked data from a new national record will be available to researchers

The national summary care record system will be replaced by more detailed national “longitudinal” patient records for direct care, planning and research, Matthew Swindells has said.

Speaking to HSJ, the NHS England deputy chief executive said the summary care record would be phased out by 2024, replaced by a network of regional patient records covering the country.

While the summary care record is based solely on a short summary of a person’s GP record, these regional records would combine GP, hospital, and other health and social care information.

Mr Swindells told HSJ each of the new regional systems, known as ”local health and care records”, would communicate with one another creating a single, federated, national record for every person.

“They are [the] moving parts with a single national longitudinal record,” he said.

“At the point at which the LHCRE [local health and care records] cover every part of the country they will be the summary care record. The LHCRE will be much richer and do a whole bunch of things. But if you are an A&E department using a SCR you need that until something richer replaces it.”

The first five of these regional records were announced last year, with each covering millions of people. Under the long-term plan a regional record will cover every patient in England by 2024. The plan also states that the summary care record “functionality” will be moved from its current central repository, managed by NHS Digital, to these regional records by 2023.

Mr Swindells said as well supporting direct care and planning, researchers could request detailed information about a patient at a national level using these systems. The information requested would be anonymised within the NHS before being sent to a regional “innovation hub”, which are being set up to improve industry access to NHS data.

“Part of the tension is about researchers using patient identified data,” he said. “But if we’ve done the linkages within a care environment the need for researchers to have identifiable data will drop dramatically.”

The summary care record was set up more than a decade ago as part of the National Programme for IT, and gives clinicians involved in a patient’s care access a short summary of their GP record.

Like other NHS projects involving the mass collection of patient data, such as Care.data, the summary care record was controversial at its inception, with some challenging its legality and the department forced to add a patient opt-out after public pressure.

Patients are currently able to use a “national opt-out” to prevent the sharing of their identifiable patient information beyond direct care. This preference will be honoured in the new national longitudinal record, but will not prevent the sharing of anonymised patient data.

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