Leeds first city to launch fully integrated NHS GP Electronic Patient Records service through GP Connect

NHS Digital have announced the launch this week of the first fully integrated GP Electronic Patient Records system to go live in the City of Leeds.  Leeds is the second largest city in England with a population approaching 785,000 so a decent test for working practice results.

This digital transformation has been facilitated by the NHS GP Connect programme service which works with various GP clinical system providers to develop Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to make data from clinical systems available in standard form, so that it can be used across different systems.  In the case of Leeds, TPP (SystmOne) joined forces with EMIS Health to create this vital, secure backlink to GP practices.

The new system unlocks the digital records of all patients across the City to hospital clinicians, connecting primary and secondary care providers 24×7. It will enable authorised clinical staff to view GP records digitally and have source GP patient information to hand to better inform their care of patients.  The move reduces the burden on GP practices having to share  information via traditional unsecured routes like fax.  This is the first in a sea change of healthcare updates for the City, as plans are made to add more benefits in 2019.  These include secure access to structured medications (to optimise use of medicines), provision of allergies information, a more efficient appointment management system between practices and the integration of social care and mental health care records.

Richard Corbridge, Chief Digital & Information Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust said: “GP Connect connectivity improves the way data can be used as information in clinical practice throughout the city.  Delivering integrated care for the population is the key goal for every healthcare system and why the investment in digital is so intrinsic to the success of healthcare as a system rather than as silos of excellence.  In Leeds we can now plan to have a fully integrated primary care, social care, hospital care and mental health care record in place throughout the city in 2019, a giant leap and a unique proposition for the NHS.”

Dr John Parry, Clinical Director at TPP said; “This is a very important step to ensuring that patients benefit from having their medical records available for those caring for them , wherever they are receiving care”.

Dr Shaun O’Hanlon, chief medical officer at EMIS Group said: “We are delighted that connectivity via GP Connect is available right across Leeds. This important partnership with NHS Digital is part of our company’s wider commitment to providing the tools for system interoperability using open NHS standards across the UK, and helping clinicians drive up standards of joined up patient care.”

This marks a significant chapter for the NHS in contrast to the dismal days of NPfIT (National Programme for IT ), the NHS IT programme started in 2002 and scrapped after 9 years by the then coalition government and a public bill of £10 billion.  The journey to transformation in the NHS deploying Electronic Patient Records (EPR) has been slow and painful, but now with a number of vendors rolling out EPR services across the country (including: Cerner, Epic, Emis, Rose, eCare, Intersystems and System C), the pace is quickening for standardised data platforms to make an integrated healthcare service a reality rather than a dream.

How on target is the NHS to going paperless in 2018?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been seeking a paperless records target of 2018 for the NHS since 2013.   In a recent focused healthcare survey of 67 members of the Health CIO Network and CCIO Leaders Network of clinicians and digital health IT leaders, there remains a mixed response:

•  67% stated they were ‘quite confident’ or ‘extremely confident’ their organisation will be paper-light by 2020.
•  14% stated they are ‘not at all confident’ or ‘not very confident’ of achieving the target.

However, on the question of having “integrated health and care records, enabling effective co-ordination of health and social care, by 2020” there was less certainty:

•  56% said they were ‘extremely confident’ or ‘quite confident’ of achieving this, but a quarter (24%), said they were ‘not at all confident’ or ‘not very confident’.
•  28% said they were confident of giving patients read/write access to their records, while 53% said they were not confident.

The top priorities for most of those involved focused on:

  • moving to paperless working – 73%
  • improving quality of services – 68%
  • supporting new models of care – 67%

When asked about their next major IT project, these were reported as:

1.  Top ranking for personal health records and patient portals, to give patients access to their medical record and test results, plus services such as appointment booking and email consultations.
2.  Next were shared record initiatives
3.  Third were e-prescribing and medicines management.
4.  In fourth place finally, one-third of respondents said Electronic Patient Records (EPR) – suggesting many are perhaps already some way down the line with this already?

Not surprisingly, with all the other cutbacks facing the NHS, this drive to go paperless might have a lot of goodwill in the sector to deliver, but the barriers facing NHS providers can be summarised by two principle points of feedback:

  • lack of adequate resource (73% affirmed that their IT budget was insufficient)
  • lack of staffing resource

With the breakup of the NHS from a truly national health service to a regional health service, primary and secondary healthcare organisations around the country will need to start showing they are making this work and that we are benefitting.  Then, we may wonder why it took so long when other major data institutions such as banks and industries such as insurance groups have managed to do this.  After all a 100-1 shot just won the Melbourne Cup.

NHS