Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment

What's all the fuss about?

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 29 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:42
  1. Jan Wilkinson, patient representative1
  1. 1 Ascot, Berkshire

    Patient consent is currently seen as the most controversial topic in the development and implementation by the NHS of universal, shared electronic health records. At least, that is how the medical profession and their legal advisers seem to view the situation. However, as a patient representative on the Care Record Development Board, it seems to me that the finer points of the opt-in or opt-out argument may be lost on even the most well informed patients.

    Differences for patients

    From the patient perspective, relatively few factors will ultimately matter in the process of establishing the NHS care record service. Topping patients' list will be the benefits gained from the end result, the overall security of identifiable patient information, and the basic practicalities of how long it all takes. The question is how opting in and opting out will affect the patient in those key areas.

    Under the opt-in position, once I have given my informed consent to opt in, I will have a shared care record. The care record guarantee sets out the duties and responsibilities of the NHS in relation to the integrity and security of that record, together with my rights and obligations as a patient. If I refuse to give my consent, my medical records will still exist in electronic …

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