The health service computer policy is reviewed in this paper particularly the potential contribution of some systems to information gathering. The paper begins with a brief description of the computer applications thought suitable for the medical field in the late 1960s, and two views of the future that were published in 1968. Two reports on computing and information systems in Scotland are then described; the general philosophy and specific proposals on the use of population files are contrasted with the initial Department of Health and Social Services' (DHSS) experimental computer program. The subsequent changes in English policy are revealed in the reports of three reviews published by the DHSS. The present development of a master patient index in Tayside is noted and the potential applications in management and planning of information stemming from such systems are discussed. It is suggested that lack of work in this field is a major gap in the programme of activity in England.
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