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GPs force scaling back of plans for NHS Care Record

Connecting for Health has scaled back its plans for a national electronic patient record after strong pressure from GPs and patients, writes Ian Cameron.

Only basic information on patients' allergies and recent prescriptions will be loaded

automatically on to NHS Care Record when the pilot stage begins later this year.

More detailed data on diagnoses and past procedures will be included on the summary record only after patients have given their explicit consent during a consultation with their GP.

The decision comes after GPs and patients objected to proposals for all of the information

to be put on the record, known as the 'spine', unless patients specifically opted out.

Both groups had warned the original plans would put confidentiality at risk and could cause sensitive information, such as a patient's HIV status, to get into the wrong hands.

Professor Mike Pringle, GP clinical lead at Connecting for Health, said he believed few people would opt out but those worried about confidentiality could be reassured.

He said: 'It's a much less contentious approach, consistent with the opt-out model but realistic in that there should be a dialogue in how records are used.'

A six-month pilot of the NHS Care Record is due to start around the turn of the year.

Connecting for Health had been planning to implement the system nationally immediately after the pilot but has now agreed to delay the roll-out for up to six months.

Professor Pringle said this would allow a formal evaluation of patients', GPs' and hospital doctors' experiences.

GP IT experts said the

softening of Connecting for Health's stance was welcome evidence it was listening to GPs' concerns.

But they said the arrangements for getting patients' consent were problematic.

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, was worried that when patients gave their consent for use of data in a summary record, it would be taken as agreeing for data to be shared in more detailed records to come.

Dr Mary Hawking, a GP with an interest in IT in Dunstable, said getting consent from patients would add to GPs' workload. Records would be unreliable if they were incomplete, she added.

She said: 'I can see this leading to tears.'

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