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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPC member leads mass care record opt-out

By Steve Nowottny

A senior GPC member is among a group of rebel GPs who have automatically opted out thousands of patients from the Summary Care Record over confidentiality fears, Pulse can reveal.

A string of practices across the country have decided to conduct a blanket-opt of all their patients, and allow those who want a Summary Care Record to opt back in – a move which puts them on a direct collision course with Connecting for Health, currently overseeing the national rollout of the scheme.

Last November a Pulse survey of 314 GPs found one in five planned to automatically opt out all of their patients when the Summary Care Record reached their area.

Now the threats are becoming action.

Dr Prit Buttar, chair of the GPC's Practice Finance Sub-Committee and a GP in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said his practice had harboured concerns about the Summary Care Record project since it was first launched.

All patients at the practice have had two read codes added to their records – ‘93C3 – refused consent for upload to national shared electronic record' and ‘93C1 – refused consent for upload to local electronic record'.

‘To date, I'm not aware of a single patient who's said "actually I'd rather be on the record",' said Dr Buttar, adding that he hoped other practices would follow his example.

‘I would really encourage people to have a good hard look at the facts. It seems to me a vastly expensive hammer to crack a very thin shell, and it doesn't really seem to have that much clinical usefulness.'

GPs elsewhere are also conducting automatic opt outs. The Ivy Grove surgery in Ripley, Derbyshire, has told patients: ‘To ensure the data of our patients remains safe, we have decided that by default, patients should be opted out of the NHS Spine, until such time that their active consent has been gained.'

Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley, Hampshire who has publicly campaigned against the Summary Care Record, said more than 1,900 of his patients had explicitly opted out even though his practice had pledged not to upload records without seeking consent. ‘My feedback has been universally positive,' he said.

A Department for Health spokesperson said: ‘Doctors deciding on behalf of their patients whether they should have a SCR assumes a 'doctor knows best' approach and is contrary to present day expectations of a partnership between patients and doctors.

‘A patient who has been opted out without their views being consulted could move to another part of the country where the Summary Care Record is actively being used, for example Bolton or Dorset, and be unaware they had been opted out. If this meant they suffered harm as a result of their previous doctor's action, they could make a legitimate complaint.'

But the growing number of GPs now involved in the Summary Care Record rollout have played down concerns over confidentiality, and have gone on record in support of the scheme.

Dr Darren Mansfield, GP clinical lead for urgent care at the first early adopter area, NHS Bolton, said: ‘The Summary Care Record is really starting to show its potential to dramatically improve the quality and safety of care we deliver to Bolton's patients, particularly with urgent care.'

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