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Labour Party proposes digitisation of red book to combat measles outbreaks

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The red book has been used by the NHS to store children’s medical records for the past 30 years 

In a bid to modernize healthcare services and address declining measles vaccination rates, the Labour Party has announced plans to digitize the red book, also known as the Personal Child Health Record (PCHR), given to parents to record their children’s medical records.

This initiative forms part of a broader reform aimed at enhancing the functionality of the NHS app.

Under the proposed reforms, children’s health records will be stored on parents’ NHS app, providing easy access to information regarding vaccination schedules and health check-ups.

Automatic notifications will alert parents if their children are behind on vaccinations or check-ups, with the option to conveniently book appointments through the app.

With measles vaccination rates declining for the past seven years and the UK losing its measles-free status in 2019, Labour’s initiative seeks to combat the resurgence of measles outbreaks across the country.

The drop in vaccination rates is believed to be driving a surge in measles cases in England, particuarly in the West Midlands.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported 67 out of 190 cases in West Midlands, London with 63, and East Midlands with 21 since March 4, 2024.

Wes Streeting MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, emphasised the transformative potential of digitizing the red book, highlighting its role in promoting children’s healthcare and increasing measles vaccination coverage.

Streeting criticized the government’s handling of the measles resurgence, attributing it to Britain’s “decline under the Tories”:

“With the red book on the app, the NHS will be able to notify every parent of an unprotected child, give them accurate information about the MMR vaccine, and invite their child to get vaccinated. That’s how a modern health service would tackle this public health crisis.”

Further, Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer stressed the significance of giving “power to the patients” and ensuring timely access to healthcare services in Labour’s vision.

He said, “In 2024, patients still wait on the phone at 8am, or even queue up in person, just to see a doctor. It’s no wonder so many people don’t bother or don’t have time, illness is caught too late, pressures on the NHS pile up, and lives are lost.”

The red book, a staple provided by the NHS to new parents for the past three decades, will undergo a digital transformation after previous health policy pledges to digitize it failed to materialize.

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