St Helens & Knowsley Health Informatics Service (StHK) has launched a new managed service to help GPs digitise and access their aging Lloyd George files, which could pave the way for the NHS to save tens of millions of pounds through reduced administration.

GPs stopped creating new Lloyd George records in around 2000, when practices started using computer systems to store patient information electronically. However, practices are still obliged to store thousands of envelopes, as the information within the Lloyd George files are used for insurance claims, court cases, and are used to track patients moving GPs.

StHK trialled the e-LGS service at Grove House Practice, which digitised its whole Lloyd George library comprising of more than 13,000 legacy patient records. This project led to three local Clinical Commissioning Groups in the area, which have 85 GP practices and 500,000 patients between them, to sign up to the service too.

The solution is being offered as a five year contract at a cost of 60p per record. Estimates suggest that the average GP practice has approximately 5,000 Lloyd George records - meaning that over a five year period the overall cost to the practice would be £15,000.

e-LGS has now launched with national availability and Computerworld UK spoke to Dr. David Wilson, the lead GP at Grove House Practice, which piloted the solution.

"Although the average GP has around five thousand records, we had 13,000. Since digitising we have freed up at least twenty square feet of office space that we have now utilised for other aspects of our administration. To build that space would have cost between £20,000 to £30,000," said Dr. Wilson.

"For an average GP, the cost of £15,000 is less than one clerical worker for a year. We are freeing up at least one of our clerical workers a day as a result. I can now access files in less than a minute, when it used to take a couple of hours previously."

"This is a problem for all GPs because Lloyd George records are still regarded as your record transfer medium. So upon leaving a practice we get an electronic flag to say said person is leaving, we then find their files, stick it in an envelope and send it off to travel through the system."

StHK used Dr. Wilson's practice as a way to work out its processes for rolling the service out and can now digitise an entire practice's Lloyd George files in seven to 10 days. The service includes the collection of records, validation of data, which is cross referenced with data on the GP systems, scanning of all records, as well as the addition of extra data to allow better navigation of files via an online portal.

All records are stored within StHK's data centres, which are within the walls of the NHS, and access provided over a network connection like N3.

Also, as part of the deal, any new patient records will be collected by StHK on a regular basis and added to the database at no additional cost to the practice.

Neil Darvill, director of informatics at StHK, believes that there is potential for the service to not only help GPs free up space, but also for the NHS to save tens of millions of pounds through reduced logistics and administration of Lloyd George records when patients join and leave GPs - if uptake is widespread.

"Any new patients going into practices, old patients leaving, student populations going into a place, all those changes are going on up and down the country. There's a big service that just collects Lloyd Georges, takes them to a central process, stores them for a while, then redistributes them to where the patient is now registered. This happens hundreds of thousands of times a year," said Darvill.

Darvill gave the example that at Grove House Practice, there is another GP right next door, and if a patient was to leave Grove House to go to the neighbouring practice, Lloyd George records would have to be found by Dr. Wilson's team, collected and sent to a central distribution area, sorted, and then sent back to the GP next door. A very time consuming and expensive system.

"If we had the coverage of enough GP practices across the country we could actually offer this service over the network at a cheaper price than what is currently being offered."

He added: "If we had some central support from the Department of Health that saw the benefits of this type of approach, which could make the service better, it could save tens of millions, if not more."