The Royal Academy of Engineering, in partnership with the Y Touring Theatre Company, has launched its new £0.25 million Theatre of Debate® project on the use of electronic patient records, by hosting its first workshop in London today (20 November). The project is supported by the Wellcome Trust and Central YMCA.

The project will aim to raise young people’s and adults’ awareness of the use of electronic patient records for health and medical research by delivery of a thought-provoking play to be delivered as a live production to schools and hospitals across the UK. The project will also explore and gather young people's thoughts and concerns on the use of our personal health information, which will be disseminated to policy makers.

Today’s workshop involves five professional playwrights, 15 young people from London schools and four people from a local patient group. They will discuss their reactions to the social and ethical implications of using electronic patient records for health and medical research after hearing from a group of experts including an engineer, a general practitioner and a medical researcher about their rationale for using this technology.

“We couldn’t have picked a more topical week to start discussing this theatre project,” says the Academy’s Head of Public Engagement Dr Lesley Paterson. “The opposition of the new chairman of the National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care, Harry Cayton, to the proposal to make over 50 million patient records available to medical researchers has thrown the issue into sharp focus. We look forward to seeing what these young people and patients think of the proposals.”

Feedback from today’s workshop session will be available at  and it will form an invaluable resource for the playwrights, who will each prepare synopsis of a possible play based around the issue of electronic patient records. The final play will have its first performance in September 2009.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – including the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. Y Touring Theatre Company is an operation of Central YMCA, the UK's leading activity for health charity and the world's first YMCA. It is an ITC/Equity registered, award winning professional theatre company, established in 1989 by Nigel Townsend.
    Y Touring audiences are young people and adults. Its mission is to produce quality theatre, new media, drama workshops and educational resources that enable audiences to explore and debate difficult and sensitive health based issues.
    Y Touring pioneered Theatre of Debate® and continues to use this format in many of its productions.
  3. Central YMCA is the UK's leading activity for health charity and is also the world's first YMCA established in 1844. Central YMCA champions the benefits of health-based activity through advocacy, education and direct delivery. Central YMCA is distinctive among YMCAs for combining both a health and an activity focus, and working in the creative arts through theatre performances. It also work internationally and nationally, as well as on a local level.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering

Tel. 020 7766 0636