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Exclusive: Care records rollout hit by chaos, delays and GP pullout

By Steve Nowottny

The rollout of the Summary Care Record has been hit by massive delays and fresh controversy over patient confidentiality, Pulse can reveal.

The first pilot to introduce the electronic patient records system has begun in chaos, and is lagging far behind schedule, according to confidential papers seen by Pulse.

A report from Bolton PCT's Summary Care Record project board, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals just in four patients have had their records uploaded. Connecting for Health had pledged not to begin rollout to unscheduled care – which has now begun – until 60% of records were uploaded.

The third wave of the rollout among Bolton GPs has been delayed for at least four months, after three practices backed out at the last minute, while uploaded records themselves had been used on just 167 occasions by the end of last month.

Bolton LMC said a new poll conducted among its committee members found they were still opposed by a two to one ratio to the care record plans.

News of the delays comes as a serious blow to Connecting for Health, ahead of an independent evaluation of the early adopter pilots due next month before the system's rollout across England.

Dr Gillian Braunold, director for the Summary Care Record and a GP in Kilburn, north London, admitted the rollout had been ‘slower than we would have liked' and said additional evaluation of the early adopter sites was now being commissioned, beyond the University College London evaluation due this summer.

‘We're not rolling out rapidly because we're doing very, very careful safety checking of the product,' she said.

But opponents of the Summary Care Record said the delays were shocking. Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, said: ‘This is neither a blip nor a stalling, but a complete breakdown and four punctures on the starting grid.'

A second document prompted new confidentiality fears after revealing receptionists at Royal Bolton Hospital's A&E department were to be given access to the care record, contrary to explicit guarantees given to local patients and GPs. Minutes of a meeting in February show the PCT has backtracked on the pledge, and now plans to give receptionists access if they ask patients directly.

A spokesperson for Bolton PCT this week said it was ‘the most practical way forward' but insisted ‘a final decision has not been made'.

But Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley, Hampshire, who first obtained the documents, said records should not be accessed by non-clinical staff. ‘If I was a Bolton GP, I'd be furious.'

Care Record chaos

- Phase three of pilot delayed by at least four months.
- PCT plans to give A&E receptionists access to records – against explicit promise
- Time-consuming audit trail described as ‘ridiculous'
- Summary Care Record LES to be discussed with LMC
- Many more patient addresses than expected found to be wrong

IT shambles- and new security scares IT shambles- and new security scares

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