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Connecting for Health trips over CD advice

By Lynn Eaton

Contradictory advice over sending patient records through the post by CD

GPs have been told by Connecting for Health not to send patient records through the post on CD, contrary to guidance on its own website.

Dr Gillian Braunold, GP clinical lead for Connecting for Health, said surgeries should only send records by paper until the GP-to-GP electronic transfer system was up and running in case security was compromised.'

We are spending hours and hours of quality time on the GP-to-GP system so we don't have to do this,' she said. She accepted that there were times when patient information had to be sent urgently, but stressed the need for safeguards if CDs had to be used.

'The only way I would do it is if the CD is password-protected and the password is posted by separate cover,' Dr Braunold advised.

This view is contrary to guidance on the Connecting for Health website, which says: 'We recognise that some PCTs and practices are interested in exploring CD transfer as an interim solution, in advance of the implementation of the national GP-to-GP solution, and have no problem with them doing so.'

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC's IT committee, believes CD transfer is a useful intermediate solution until GP-to-GP transfer is available. He said it was an easy way of transferring data, although there were times the receiving surgery couldn't open information and had to request the paper originals.

'There are guidelines between individual PCTs and GPs in their area about using CDs,' he said. Connecting for Health figures show 390 GP practices are already using GP-to-GP transfer and Dr Braunold is optimistic that 75 per cent of patients will be covered by the end of the year.

She accused surgeries and PCTs using CDs of being impatient: 'GPs are screaming at us about confidentiality – then what do they go and do, but stick patient information on a CD.'

She added that in addition to confidentiality: 'There are whole issues about sending documents by CD and then destroying them. People should be keeping a TIFF image that is not editable.'

Hampshire PCT has already written to practices recom-mending they do not transfer patient data by CD. A spokesman for Hampshire PCT said CD transfer was not a good idea because scanned documents cannot always be read properly and there could be delays if the receiving practice has to request a hard copy.

Devon PCT also expressed concern. A spokesman said: 'We prefer paper. Sometimes when CDs are received the information is incomplete.'

pulse@cmpmedica.com

How should patient records be sent to another practice?

• Dr Gillian Braunold, GP clinical lead, Connecting for Health: 'Records should be sent as paper hard copies rather than on CD.'

• Connecting for Health website: 'Connecting for Health has 'no problem' with records being sent by CD.'

• Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC's IT committee: 'CD transfer is a useful intermediate solution until GP-to-GP transfer is available.'

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