A new system to collect information from patient's medical records that will help to provide a 'joined-up' picture of the country's health and social care needs is currently underway in the region.

The programme has been commissioned by NHS England with support from the BMA and RCGP and is being delivered by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The NHS has some of the best information systems in the world; since 1980 it has been collecting data about hospital admissions nationwide where it is anonymised at the HSCIC. This information has been invaluable for monitoring and planning appropriate care and conducting research. The programme will help 'fill in the gaps' across the country and enable the NHS to improve its health care provision.

The data to be extracted from GP systems will include family history, vaccinations, diagnosis, referrals, and biological values such as blood pressure, BMI and prescriptions. Identifiers such as DOB, NHS number and postcode are required to link GP data with patient data from other settings (hospitals etc) in order to analyse patient pathways. Free text will not be included.

The public awareness campaign started in August 2013 with GP surgeries displaying leaflets and posters supported by digital content on NHS Choices. A leaflet drop (Better Information means Better Care) will begin in January 2014 to all households in England, with the north being the first region.

The leaflet is designed to support GP practices with their public awareness activities ahead of the planned extraction of data from patient's records which will start in spring 2014.

Patients have the right to opt-out or register any objections to information being taken from their medical records via and the leaflet contains methods on how they can do so; a helpline is also available for patient's queries.

There are strict legal processes in place to protect individual's data and to ensure that information is treated with respect however it is important that the public are fully aware of the benefits of the programme to the health of themselves, their family and friends.

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