HEALTH bosses have promised patients a new electronic records system will be secure.

Oxfordshire’s patient files are to be put on a national electronic database called the Summary Care Record that the NHS says will improve care because of quicker access in an emergency.

At the moment records are kept in all the places where patients receive care, from GPs surgeries to hospitals, which means the information can only be shared by letter, email, fax or phone. A local version of the records system will also be introduced.

The Oxfordshire Care Summary will provide more detailed information than the national Summary Care Record and will only be available to healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s treatment in Oxfordshire.

Dr Andy Chivers, clinical lead for the Oxfordshire Care Summary project, said: “This will improve patient care, especially in complex cases where the GP record may hold vital information not otherwise available, such as blood-test results or drug side effects.

“Control and access to the data will be taken seriously so we can assure Oxfordshire residents their information is only viewed when necessary.”

Every patient registered at a GP practice in Oxfordshire and aged 16 years and over will receive a letter at the beginning of April.

It will explain what the care records are, their benefits, and that patients need to make a choice about switching to these records. Patients have the right to opt out by completing a freepost form.

If they do choose to stay in the system, health care staff involved in patient care can access their history with a chip-and-pin NHS smartcard.

But the staff members will have to ask their permission before a record can be viewed.

A detailed audit trail is generated every time a record is viewed.

A new electronic patient record system rolled out at the Oxford University Hospital’s trust caused months of problems for patients.

Hospital chiefs brought in the new £15.7m Electronic Patient Record system at the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Horton hospitals in early December. Ambulances were left queueing outside John Radcliffe’s A&E and patients waited for hours for appointments which had ‘disappeared’ in the system.

Dr Stephen Richards, chief executive of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The GPs in the group recognise the problems that arise when a patient’s records are not available to doctors outside normal surgery hours.

“We are striving to create a more integrated health system and sharing the most clinically important aspects of a patient’s records is a key part of improving health outcomes for the people of Oxfordshire.”