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Care record evaluation plan 'nonsensical'

The GPC has attacked proposals for an evaluation of the Summary Care Record early adopter programme in Bolton as 'nonsensical', after it emerged that Connecting for Health will be setting the evaluation's barometer of success, writes Steve Nowottny.

University College London was last week awarded a contract to conduct an independent evaluation of the early adopter programme, beating off seven other applicants in a competitive tender.Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, a GP and professor of primary care at UCL, who will head the study, stressed her evaluation would be independent. However, she said her role was not as an 'auditor', and admitted any measure of success would have to be determined by Connecting for Health.'We will be taking the standards and the definitions of success from the people who are attempting to implement this,' she said.'It's got to be something that is developed on the ground and that makes sense in the context of the particular programme.'Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, said it was essential the evaluation was fully independent.'It's a flawed process if the people who are implementing the programme are also defining what the evaluation parameters are,' he said.Professor Greenhalgh's team will look at every aspect of the programme, including the usability and usage of the Summary Care Record, its impact and benefits and whether the 'opt-out' implied consent model works.The evaluation, which began earlier this week, will include extensive fieldwork on the ground to ensure a comprehensive picture of the programme is obtained. The evaluation will take a year, with a final report due in summer 2008, although any emerging findings will be used immediately to influence the record's rollout.The evaluation team will interview GPs, nurses, patients, practice managers and administrative staff, said Professor Greenhalgh, with a particular focus on including hard-to-reach demographics.'Something I personally have a very strong commitment to is disadvantaged groups. For example people who don't speak English, the housebound elderly – people who are not your usual suspects when you think of your average patient,' she said.

• Dr Paul Thornton on the programme's threat to confidentiality – Opinion, page 25

What the evaluation team will look at

• Usability, usage and functionality of the Summary Care Record• Impact and benefits of the Summary Care Record• Patient access to their own Summary Care Record• Evaluation of the public information programme

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