Dr Paul Atkinson explains why he supports the Joining Up Your Information project in Gloucestershire to improve the way patient details are shared securely and electronically by NHS and social care staff.

Every patient is different but, broadly speaking, they have three main requirements when they walk into my consulting room.

They want, expect and demand:

• The best advice, treatment and care I am able to offer
• I spend enough time with them to establish the best course of action for them as an individual
• I know their full medical history in great detail – from previous visits to the GP to outpatient treatment, from home visits by community nurses to the time they called the out-of-hours GP surgery at 2am one morning last week.

Indeed, on the occasions when I am sitting there as a patient myself, I would expect the same from my own doctor.
As a GP, however, I am well aware that:

• The best care depends on the best information
• Devoting quality time to a patient means having key information readily available
• Knowing a patient’s full history would require access to information held on different – and often unlinked – NHS computer systems.

Driven largely by changes in the population – more and more people are suffering from multiple, long-term or lifelong conditions, for example – many of us will rely increasingly on more than one part of the care system.

Because of the way the NHS has developed, GPs, hospitals, community care, mental health care, the ambulance and out-of-hours GP services are run separately and store patient details on different systems.

And all of these NHS services will often need to speak to colleagues from Gloucestershire County Council social care.

This is often by telephone, letter or fax – a cumbersome and time-consuming way to get information in this day and age.

Gloucestershire’s local shared health and social care information project, Joining Up Your Information, will make a key set of patient information from each of the different parts of the care system available to me.

People put a lot of trust in doctors, nurses and other health and social care professionals as they make important and often potentially life-changing decisions about their care.

As a GP I would certainly welcome the introduction of the shared care record. Why would I not want better quality and more up-to-date information at my fingertips?

Paul Atkinson is a Gloucester GP and Gloucestershire NHS
Clinical Commissioning Group’s chief clinical information officer

Joining Up Your Information is expected to go live during the second half of 2016.