A pilot scheme has been launched in Wales that allows GP surgeries to make their patients' records available for hospital doctors and nurses to access electronically.
The individual health record (IHR) system is aimed at speeding up treatment for patients admitted in emergency, and also reduces the potential for the wrong medications being administered during a hospital stay.
The pilot scheme, at the medical assessment unit (MAU) of the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, had previously only been available to GPs working for the out-of-hours service in Gwent.
The records include important health information compiled by GPs on patients' medication history, allergies and any current problems. Health bosses were keen to stress that the IHR does not contain any sensitive information.
"For the first time nurses, doctors and pharmacists on the MAU can access the records of 500,000 patients who turn up at the hospital to be admitted," Dr Martin Murphy, clinical director of Informing Healthcare, the body behind the pilot scheme, told the Western Mail.
"This is helping to speed up treatment because staff do not have to spend large amounts of time – sometimes up to four hours – phoning a GP surgery to find out details about a patient."