Paper will remain a key part of GP and health trusts' patient records systems "for years" because of the continued use of paper on hospital wards - despite health minister Jeremy Hunt's plans to create a "paperless NHS" by 2018.
That is according to Emma Stockwell, a partner in the Health Business Group at law firm Hill Dickinson, speaking today at the Westminster Health Forum on the implementation of electronic health records in the NHS.
Furthermore, said Stockwell, having both paper and electronic records systems running side-by-side risks seeing critical medical information fall between the cracks, leading to clinicians relying on incomplete records data, partly due to a lack of willingness to scan and digitise all paper records.
"Many NHS bodies that I work with at the moment have a dual system of paper records and electronic records, which I'm sure most [health] organisations currently do. Until there's actually a system to be able to create electronic records on the ward you are going to have this dual system potentially for some years," said Stockwell.
She continued: "Where that system is used there's scope for errors - potentially for records to go missing.
"There's quite a lot of cases where for some reason records don't make it on to the electronic patient record. So paper records are not created and that means that the electronic version is therefore not up-to-date and not accurate.
"Having that mix of paper and electronic records also causes a problem in terms of a continuous record of care because you have to access lots of different records in order to be able to get that full clinical picture.
"That in itself can cause problems because there's been lots of cases where clinicians have missed records or not been able to access records and, therefore, don't have that full clinical picture to provide appropriate care," she said.