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Summary Care Record: helping patients who need emergency care

Thousands of people in Herefordshire will soon have some of their medical information put on to a national electronic system which can be used in the event of an emergency to help treat them better.  It could even save their life.
So far about 70,000 people in Herefordshire have received letters explaining more about the national initiative, the Summary Care Record, and telling them what to do if they don’t want a record creating for them.  This week, a further 50,000 residents will begin receiving letters as the next phase of the programme begins. 
The NHS in England wishes to make it easier for health professionals across the country to access important medical information about  people during emergencies.  For the 15 million patients in the UK with a long term condition, it can be a real struggle communicating their needs, especially in an emergency.  For example, asthma patients being asked to repeat their medical history when they can’t breathe or the patient with lung disease carrying around a wash bag with “Please make sure I take this medication” written on it.
This is a relatively new national, electronic record containing basic information about medications, allergies and bad reactions to drugs. It could be used by A&E clinicians or by out of hours GPs, to provide safer care where no other information is available.
Paul Edwards, at NHS Herefordshire, said: “Health professionals knowing about any medicines patients are taking, allergies they suffer from and any bad reactions to medicines, could literally save lives by making sure that those caring for patients have enough information to provide treatment safely.
“Patients are in the driving seat and can opt out of having a record but we hope people will choose not to do this.  We are phasing the summary care record system in across the county, allowing time for patients to ask questions and make an informed choice. 
“The introduction of this system nationwide means we can improve people’s life chances and recovery rates during emergencies by having immediate access to crucial information.”