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BMA care records boycott falters

Connecting for Health is pressing ahead with the rollout of Summary Care Records, with the BMA's non-cooperation plans in apparent disarray.

Dorset has followed Bolton and Bury to become the third PCT to join the early adopter programme, with a further three PCTs due to be announced shortly.

But GPs unsure whether to take part in the scheme are facing conflicting advice from the BMA, which adopted a policy of non-cooperation at this year's annual representative meeting.

The policy advises members 'not to co-operate with centralised storage of all medical records as this seriously endangers patient confidentiality.' However, the BMA's Working Party on IT, which will consider how to adopt the policy and what guidance should be issued, has yet to meet following the ARM and a gathering of the committee scheduled for this week was postponed because of various member commitments.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator and member of the BMA's Working Party on IT, said: 'From a GPC perspective, it was clear at the LMCs conference we wanted to learn from the pilot sites – particularly to assess the impact on workload and to assess how acceptable the Summary Care Record was to patients.

'Clearly the BMA's advice is that practices shouldn't get involved – I think that's a decision practices need to make in the context of those conferences.'

In Dorset, six practices representing 31 GPs have so far signed up to the scheme. Their 36,000 patients will be given 16 weeks – until early November – to opt out, with their records being uploaded under the implied consent model if they do not.

Dr Jon Orrell, a GP in Weymouth leading the Dorset rollout, said it would help the 'separate tribes' of the NHS to communicate with each other.

Dr Graham Archard, a GP in Christchurch and a member of Dorset LMC, said although he could see 'potential benefits' of the scheme, he thought Connecting for Health 'should look very seriously at a specific opt-in rather than an opt-out'. Although his practice was yet to take part, up to 200 of its 9,000 patients had already chosen to opt out, he said.

'I feel that is probably the tip of the iceberg,' he said. 'If we were going to be an early adopter I think at the very least we'd need to contact our patients to advise them about it.'

Dr Archard said GPs in Dorset had received no guidance from the BMA. 'I respect the BMA's view but we wouldn't automatically jump over the cliff with them.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, GP clinical lead for Connecting for Health, attacked the BMA's lack of consistency, comparing its opt-in policy on care records to its organ donation opt-out policy. 'The logic that the BMA is happy for patients to have an opt-out policy on organ donation so parts are donated without explicit consent, yet access to the information to find out what patients want has to be implicitly consented, is nonsensical.'

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