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Independents' Day

GPs' electronic records to go live despite data loss

By Steve Nowottny

Electronic patient records held by GPs are to be made available to hospital staff for the first the first time this month, just weeks after the NHS had to admit losing hundreds of thousands of patient records.

Moves to press ahead with the rollout of the Summary Care Record came as a pressure group claimed 200,000 people were already preparing to opt out of the programme because of fears over confidentiality breaches.

More than 110,000 patient records in Bolton and Bury have now been uploaded to the spine.

Staff working for local out-of-hours providers already have access to records, and A&E staff at the Royal Bolton Hospitals will follow ‘within weeks.'
But patient concerns over confidentiality have been heightened after nine NHS trusts admitted losing data on hundreds of thousands of patients.

In one incident, City and Hackney PCT said a CD containing the names and addresses of 160,000 children had been lost in the post.

In the wake of the loss, the Conservative party called for patient records to be shared locally rather than held on one central database.

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the joint GPCRCGP IT subcommittee, said it was essential the government learned lessons from the losses.

‘The data breaches vindicate the BMA's very cautious approach,' he said.

The Big Opt Out, a pressure group campaigning against the NHS care records project, said up to 200,000 patients had downloaded its proforma letter allowing them to opt out of a Summary Care Record.

Campaign coordinator Helen Wilkinson said: ‘My best guess would be if they've downloaded 200,000, at least three quarter of them if not more would have been sent.'

But Connecting for Health dismissed the claims as ‘misleading', and said in the five early adopter areas, 3,425 patients - less than 1% of the half a million contacted so far - had chosen to opt out.

Dr Gillian Braunold, Clinical Director for the Summary Care Record, admitted patients were wary after a series of data breaches in recent months, following HM Revenue and Customs' loss of the personal details of 25 million people in November.

‘I think it's made the job of anyone working in government IT more difficult, because there is a general distrust within the country of anything the government does anywhere,' she said. ‘From my perspective we're very pleased at the slow, steady progress and just steering clear of some of the hysteria that exists.'

Dr Mohammed Jiva, secretary of Rochdale and Bury LMC, said the Summary Care Record had had a very different reception in the first two early adopter areas.

‘I know Bolton LMC aren't very keen on the project, so we're getting feedback from them on what they're not keen on it – but from a Bury perspective I've had no negative comments at all.'

IT Countdown to care records

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