The Government has accepted the latest recommendations from the independent NHS Future Forum, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced this week. The NHS Future Forum was asked to carry out conversations with health and care professionals, patients and service users and to provide independent advice on education and training, information, integrated care, and the NHS’s role in the public’s health.
The key recommendations that relate to information are as follows:
1. Information is an integral part of the service to patients and service users and the Government’s information strategy must clearly set out the responsibilities of commissioners and providers in affirming this principle.
2. Service providers must ensure that information integrates around the needs of the individual, and commissioners must ensure that they do so. The NHS Commissioning Board must lead by example in its direct commissioning of primary care and other services. It should also ensure that the levers and enablers it uses for improving quality align with this requirement.
3. In the Chancellor’s 2011 Autumn Statement, the Government announced new measures as part of its Growth Review, which set a deadline for patient access to their online GP held records by the end of this Parliament. We support this commitment as a first step, but the information strategy must now make clear how this will be achieved, recognising that there is both a financial and time burden to GP practices and by providing meaningful help and support to them.
4. The Royal College of General Practitioners, in partnership with the British Medical Association, NHS Commissioning Board and relevant patient organisations, should be invited by the Department of Health to develop a plan that delivers the roll‐out of access to patient records by 2015.
5. Switching on patient access alone is not enough, and potentially detrimental if appropriate support structures are not in place for patients so that they understand and know how to use the information. The planned roll‐out of patient access to electronic records by the Government must acknowledge this and ensure that a support structure is in place, including a proper consent process.
There are further more detailed recommendations and findings contained in the Future Forum’s Information report. The Patient Information Forum is mentioned in relation to a case study co-developed with Macmillan Cancer Support for a National Voices event last year. Information Prescriptions, the Information Standard, Care planning and care navigation also feature.