The government may lack the cash to implement ambitious NHS IT reforms, the UK's leading doctors' union has warned.
The government's Information Revolution consultation recently laid out plans to give people greater access to their medical data. Proposals include offering patients online access to their records and allowing them to use and distribute the information however they wish.
But trade body the British Medical Association (BMA) says a large number of NHS trusts do not currently possess the requisite technology. The union adds that the current spending restrictions will make it tricky for the government's plans to reach fruition.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul of the BMA's Working Party on IT said: "Improving NHS IT while the NHS is under huge financial pressure will be extremely challenging. Delivering the information revolution cost-effectively and equitably will depend on building on the systems that are currently in place and working well, and on involving clinicians."
Technology is invariably one of the first areas to be hit when government spending is squeezed, says the BMA. The doctors' body adds that safeguards will need to be deployed to protect patients sharing inappropriate information.
"While the principle of patients controlling aspects of their records is a good one, there must be safeguards to reduce the risks involved in sharing such sensitive data," added Nagpaul. "Even if a patient validly decides to share part of their records, for example via an online support forum, they will effectively lose control once posting it."
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