A new electronic health record aimed at improving patient safety and quality of care is being launched by NHS Bath and North East Somerset.
The summary care record, known as an SCR, is a summary of patients' medications, allergies and any previous adverse reactions to drugs which will be used by doctors and nurses to make decisions when the GPs' record is not available.
The system saves time for patients and clinical staff alike and helps clinicians make the right decisions for patients.
Letters are being sent to registered adult patients in Bath and North East Somerset telling them about the scheme.
Dr Richard Wharton, a GP at Newbridge Surgery and joint medical director of NHS B&NES, said the new system was a sensible development.
He said: "The summary care record helps clinicians to make safer decisions, improves communication and speeds up the time between consultation and treatment."
Patients attending an A&E department or out-of-hours service must be asked permission for a doctor or nurse to view the SCR and if the record is accessed without permission (perhaps if the patient was unconscious), an alert is generated and investigated by NHS B&NES, the organisation responsible for GP care provision. Alerts are generated for all accesses and a proportion where permission has been given will be audited.
Smartcards with chip and pin technology and pre-defined access rights will be issued to NHS professionals who may need to use the new record. Each card is unique to an individual and that person must have a justifiable reason for viewing the SCR.
Other extensive security arrangements have been put in place and the summary care record is now considered more secure than internet banking.
Those people who don't want to take part in the scheme can simply 'opt out' by completing the form which accompanies the letter and returning it to the address provided or dropping it into their GP surgery.
SCRs will be automatically created for children, so parents or guardians of children under 16 may wish to discuss the summary care record with them and complete the opt out form on their behalf if they wish.
Full details are available on NHS B&NES website by visiting www.banes.nhs.uk or visit the national website at www.nhscarerecords.nhs.uk.