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Medical Records: EC Countries

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has (a) to permit and (b) to implement the transfer of patient information between member states of the European Union, as referred to in paragraph 3.1.1. of the European Commission’s Consultation on Community Action on Health Services, published on 26 September 2006. (131858)

In collaboration with the European Commission and other European health administrations we are exploring ways in which citizens could, if they so choose, make key health data available when seeking treatment in other European states, subject to stringent confidentiality safeguards. This work is at a very early stage and complex technical and information governance issues have yet to be resolved. In particular, any transfer of patient information would need to be in line with the undertakings given in the NHS Care Record Guarantee, and subject to compliance with the European Union Data Protection Directive.

The consultation acknowledges work that is already under way in some member states in developing interoperability standards for electronic medical records. The Department’s NHS Connecting for Health agency is in fact the global leader in healthcare interoperability. NHS Connecting for Health have developed the message implementation manual which uses the international standard HL7V3 to define a standards-based approach to clinical message interchange. These messages are used by the systems which have been through the NHS Connecting for Health national integration centre, to create the largest range of heterogeneous interoperable systems in healthcare globally, with in excess of 100 certified systems. This interoperability framework is underpinned by a robust and resilient messaging infrastructure, known as the spine, which already supports the transfer of many millions of messages every week across the national health service.

Another key aspect of healthcare system interoperability is the consistent use of a clinical terminology. NHS Connecting for Health have been instrumental in the establishment, and are a founding member of the Standards Development Organisation, which has acquired the intellectual property rights for SNOMED-CT, an international standard for codifying clinical data.