"Shared care" system could see patient details pooled in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire, and Luton

A £7.4 million plan to put the health and social care records of 920,000 people in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire and Luton into one common computer system could begin later this year.

Health chiefs from across the area are building up a full business case for what is being called an integrated shared care system that could have a contract go out to tender next month (March) with a contract awarded in September.

Hospital porters

Hospital porters

A report to be considered by the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee covering MK, Beds and Luton, and meeting in Milton Keynes tomorrow (Tuesday), is due to hear that the whole issue is highly complex.

It may also generate opposition from local residents who object to their data being used in this way, and be at risk from competing demands for money within the health system. Health organisations may also disagree with the amounts they have to spend, the committee is set to be told.

Such a change would mean that the computer systems of three clinical commissioning groups, three hospitals, four trusts, two ambulance services, four councils, and local GP practices would need to be able to communicate with each other. They currently do not, although Bedford Hospital’s impending merger with the Luton & Dunstable Hospital should help. However, Milton Keynes Hospital uses a different computer system.

But the committee is set to hear that there are potentially huge benefits from an integrated system, including savings of up to £30million.

Health chiefs envisage that care professionals will be able to tap into the information they need at the time they need it. Its data could also help forecast health issues, and help patients to help themselves.

The report’s authors give an example of a patient who has five conditions, but that this requires the input of 18 different organisations, none of which has data pooled into one place. For example, family doctors have ‘no access’ to social care information.

A report being presented to the committee says: “Partners have in place their own leadership, governance and processes for acquiring and managing digital capabilities within an institution, however, no-one in our system takes responsibility for enabling ongoing continuity of care for residents.

“Once out of the hospital, or not in receipt of ongoing care packages, there has been little investment or capability developed.”

It adds: “The strategy is focused on the glue that currently doesn’t exist to hold us together around our residents’ needs, providing real continuity of care.”

The report’s author also compares the health system to a house: “If we were to imagine our system as a house the correct analogy would be that we have some excellent rooms… but no one has ever invested in the corridors, stairs, and easements to link areas together, and neither have we invested in communal shared areas.

“This is why in order to address these gaps we have taken an approach whereby we are focused on the correct architecture to glue our system together.”