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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP's experiment at his own practice highlights another area of concern

New confidentiality fear over Care Record

A GP's experiment at his own practice has sparked fresh fears over the confidentiality of data on the planned National Care Record.

Dr Paul Kelly used the

Personal Demographics Service, part of the so-called 'spine',

to access details of practice

staff members who were not registered at his surgery in Blackpool.

The system is supposed to generate an alert, sent to a Caldicott Guardian, if anyone not directly involved in a patient's care attempts to look at their records. But no such alerts were raised when he called up the demographic data for his staff members.

The potential for abuse of the system when hundreds of thousands of NHS staff eventually have access prompted Dr Kelly to write to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

A response from the Department of Health indicated that demographic data would be 'quite widely accessible'.

Dr Kelly said even allowing widespread access to demographic data was dubious. 'But when you put medical records on the spine, who is going to have access?' he said. 'How they would spot an inappropriate

access is beyond me.'

Confidentiality concerns could damage the doctor-

patient relationship, Dr Kelly added. 'If people do not have confidence they can tell their doctor their history, the diagnosis is going to be wrong.'

Doctors have attacked the planned policy of loading all

patients' summary record on

to the spine unless they specifically opt out.

Dr Paul Cundy, a GP in south London and chair of the GPC's IM&T subcommittee, said he was getting two requests a week from patients wanting to opt out of the Care Record. GPs could use the Read Code 93C3 – if they got these requests, he said.

Dr Cundy said: 'Access control is a real issue. I don't have any confidence in the controls.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, GP clinical lead at Connecting for Health, urged GPs to attend one of its engagement events. She said three-quarters of GPs who had attended the events so far had voted in favour of the opt-out model.

She said: 'Our responsibility is to listen to people and take on board what GPs are concerned about.'

pulse@cmpmedica.com

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