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Boycott throws care records into turmoil

By Steve Nowottny

The future of the electronic care record has been thrown into turmoil with thousands of GPs set to join an official boycott of the controversial project.

In a surprise vote at last week's annual representatives' meeting, the BMA adopted a policy of non-cooperation with the care record rollout because of fears over confidentiality. The move threatens the entire future of the Government's flagship IT project, with serious doubts now cast over how Connecting for Health can proceed without doctors' co-operation.

A Pulse snap survey of more than 100 GPs found three in four plan to follow the boycott, raising the prospect that thousands of GPs will refuse to upload their patients' records as the care record is rolled out over the next 18 months. But the vote came in defiance of the BMA's leadership, leaving confusion over how rigorously non-cooperation would be pushed – even though it now constitutes formal BMA policy.

Connecting for Health is playing for time and claimed the BMA now had 'conflicting policy' over its attitude to the care record programme. The motion passed at the ARM called for the BMA to 'advise all its members not to co-operate with the proposed centralised storage of medical records as it seriously endangers patient confidentiality'. Delegates also passed a motion calling for an urgent public inquiry into the National Programme for IT.

Dr Charlie Daniels, a GP in Torquay, Devon, who proposed both motions, said the BMA should send 'a clear message' to ministers. 'The safety of medical records and patient confidentiality are the glue binding the doctor-patient relationship. It will be us and more importantly our patients who will be losers if it all goes tits up.'

The motions were passed against the advice of the BMA senior leadership, who had urged moderation. Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator and a member of the BMA's IT working group, had warned adopting a policy of non-cooperation would be 'ill-advised'.

Speaking to Pulse after the debate, he said that although the working group on IT would discuss how to take the policy forward, views from the current GP survey would also be taken into account. 'We need to know if the views at the ARM are consistent with those of the profession in general.'

But a BMA spokesperson confirmed non-cooperation was official BMA policy and guidance setting out practical steps for GPs to take would be published. The vote follows the Pulse Common Sense on IT campaign, which recently featured in a parliamentary debate on the care record project.

Dr Simon Eccles, hospital doctors' clinical lead for Connecting for Health, who was hissed during the ARM debate, insisted: 'The confidentiality controls in place are exactly what the BMA demanded. 'Grassroots GPs largely backed the BMA's decision.

Dr Brian McGregor, a GP in York, said: 'It's nice to see the BMA developing its own spine.'

Motion that became official BMA policyMotion that became official BMA policy Motion that became official BMA policy

The BMA should advise all members not to co-operate with centralised storage of medical records as this seriously endangers patient confidentiality

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