The Armed Forces Bill - Armed Forces Committee Contents

Supplementary written evidence from the Ministry of Defence


1.  This memorandum is provided in response to a question raised during the Select Committee's oral evidence sessions on the Armed Forces Bill. The question related to the tracking of ex-Service personnel within the NHS through their medical record.

2.  The electronic record exchange system in the NHS is called "GP2GP" and it transfers a patient's full primary healthcare record as and when patients move between NHS GP practices. Around 50% of NHS GPs are able to use this system at present, with the coverage expected to reach 90% in the next 12 months.

3.  Traditionally, a summarised record was produced during the discharge medical and handed to the patients themselves. The Defence Medical Services are piloting a new process for the direct transfer of medical records to the NHS GP of Service leavers upon discharge. This process is manual and includes summary medical record, NHS GP registration form and a covering letter advising NHS GP practices to code the individuals as having "a history of military service". This letter was produced by the Department of Health to encourage English GPs to code the veteran status within their electronic health records. This is seen as the first step in what may in time be a requirement on GPs in the NHS to record an individual's veteran status.

4.  No transfer of records can occur without consent of the patient and, at present, it appears that take-up in the RAF and Navy is low - these personnel appear to prefer to make their own arrangements. Early indications are that there is a higher uptake in the Army, but the Department is waiting for the evaluation figures.

5.  It is likely that during the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee's visit to Chilwell, the GP was referring to a separate plan that was considered in 2009. The Department investigated the possibility of matching MoD records to NHS and attaching a flag on the NHS national demographic database. However, this would have cost the Government between £4 million and £6.5 million but would have identified only about 20% of current veterans; thus the project was not taken forward as it would have been only a partial solution and would not have provided value for money.

6.  The Department is working with the NHS to develop the electronic transfer of records via "GP2GP". The project to make the Defence Medical Service IT system compatible with NHS systems is complex given the nature of the data exchanged, and it is likely that a solution may take around another two years to implement. We therefore expect to introduce "GP2GP" for Defence use in 2013.

7.  Eventually, when a full medical record is transferred to a NHS GP electronically, the individual's veteran "status" could automatically be identified within the record. This could become an integral part of the health record without the need for the GP to input any data. However, because consent is currently required for the recording of military service, the system will not capture those who do not want to be identified as ex-Service personnel. To remove the requirement for consent would require legislation to modify the duties under the Data Protection Act 1988 and the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

24 February 2011

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 10 March 2011