Care Record opt out patients told to explain reasons in person
By Steve Nowottny
Exclusive: NHS managers have told thousands of patients they will only be allowed to opt out of having a Summary Care Record if they come and explain their reasons in person, Pulse can reveal.
More than 500 patients at an early adopter site in Birmingham have already been forced to explain face-to-face why they are refusing to take part in the scheme.
And in Stoke-on-Trent patients have been told they will automatically be given a care record unless they discuss their reasons with ‘NHS advisers'.
The demands – condemned by BMA leaders as ‘appalling' – come amid mounting concern that PCTs are placing undue pressure on patients to take part in the project as the national rollout gathers pace.
Last month Pulse revealed NHS Lincolnshire was planning to request lists of opted-out patients from GPs so they could be ‘invited to the surgery to discuss it further', although it later backtracked.
Letters to patients from the chief executives of NHS South Birmingham and NHS Stoke-on-Trent, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, state: ‘If you do not wish to have a Summary Care Record you will need to make us aware of this choice in person. Please use the contact details below and we will make arrangements for you to do this.'
Patients are then told to ring either the NHS Care Records Service Information Line or the PCT Patient Advice and Liaison Service, and given information on ‘drop-in sessions' with ‘NHS advisers'.
In south Birmingham, one of the original early adopter sites, two-thirds of GP practices have now signed up to care records and letters have been sent to 77,614 patients – of whom 517 have opted out in person.
A PCT spokesperson claimed despite the wording of the letter, sent out in June 2008, patients were only required to discuss opting out with their GP.
‘Patients are asked to opt out in person with their GP, for the GP to ensure the patient understands all the implications and to answer any questions.'
NHS Stoke-on-Trent was unavailable for comment.
Dr Fay Wilson, a GP in Birmingham, said the letter would be ‘intimidating' to patients.
She said: ‘It seems extraordinary that people have to exercise their right to data protection by appearing in person. I'd like to see how that stands up legally.'
Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of the GPC's IT subcommittee and also the secretary of GPC West Midlands, said: ‘For patients worried about privacy anyway the last thing they want is to go and justify that to some official. It's appalling they're going to torture someone basically.'
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said PCTs should not create ‘hurdles and obstacles' to patients opting out: ‘Individuals do not need to attend face-to-face for a passport or driving licence application – it seems unreasonable.'
Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley in Hampshire who first obtained the letters, said: ‘Connecting for Health seem determined to make it as difficult as possible for patients to opt out.'
A Connecting for Health spokesperson said the matter was for PCTs to determine locally.Dr Fay Wilson: claims letter will ‘intimidate' patients Dr Fay Wilson: claims letter will ‘intimidate' patients