Today, records are kept in all the places where you receive care. These places can usually only share information from your records by letter, email, fax or phone. At times, this can slow down treatment and sometimes make it hard to access information.
Summary Care Records are being introduced to improve the safety and quality of patient care. Because the Summary Care Record is an electronic record, it will give healthcare staff faster, easier access to essential information about you, and help to give you safe treatment during an emergency or when your GP surgery is closed.
For example, a person who lives in London is on holiday in Brighton. One evening, they're knocked unconscious in a car accident and taken to an accident and emergency (A&E) department. Under the current system of storing health records, it would be difficult for A&E staff to find out whether there are any important factors to consider when treating the person (such as any serious allergies to medications), especially as their GP surgery is likely to be closed. If healthcare staff cannot get the relevant health information quickly, some patients may be at risk.
A Summary Care Record is an electronic record that's stored at a central location. As the name suggests, the record will not contain detailed information about your medical history, but will only contain important health information, such as:
Access to your Summary Care Record will be strictly controlled. The only people who can see the information will be healthcare staff directly involved in your care who have a special smartcard and access number (like a chip-and-pin credit card).
Healthcare staff will ask your permission every time they need to look at your Summary Care Record. If they cannot ask you, e.g. because you're unconscious, healthcare staff may look at your record without asking you. If they have to do this, they will make a note on your record.
You can choose to have a Summary Care Record. If you would like one, you won't need to do anything. It will happen automatically.
You can choose not to have a Summary Care Record. Let your GP surgery know by filling in and returning an opt-out form (PDF, 25kb).
You'll be informed by letter when it's time for your local primary care trust (PCT) to introduce Summary Care Records. The letter will contain details about your choices and how to opt out of the scheme. If you opt out, you can rejoin the scheme at any time. An opt-out form is included with your letter.
More information about Summary Care Records is available at www.nhscarerecords.nhs.uk.