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C&B upgrade risk

An upgrade to computer software used in the Choose and Book electronic referral system has put the confidentiality of patients at risk, Pulse can reveal.

The change has removed an automatic failsafe measure that prevented patients who had opted out of electronic record-sharing being referred through the system.

Previous versions of the software had prevented GPs from referring any patients who had opted out of having their records uploaded to the spine.

But Choose and Book release 3.5, the latest version of the software, rolled out to practices across England over the summer, changed the function of the 'consent-to-share' indicator, meaning it will no longer stop patients being referred if it is set to 'not given'.

Connecting for Health advises GPs to refer patients who do not wish to be referred through Choose and Book via a paper referral.

A spokesperson said the decision had been taken following consultation with the relevant governance bodies.

'A Choose and Book referral does not involve any clinical information relating to a patient¹s referral being stored on the spine,' he said.

'If a patient does not wish their referral details to be transferred through Choose and Book, they can inform their GP in the same way as they would any other preferences concerning their care.' However, some GPs have warned that patients who have opted out of record-sharing will end up being referred through Choose and Book against their wishes.

Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC, said: 'This is obtaining the demographics from patients who have opted out by a back-door approach.

' suspect the majority of GPs are not aware of the change. It was an update message from EMIS I nearly didn't bother to read. I certainly wasn't aware of the national policy.'

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