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GPs set for mass care record opt-out

By Steve Nowottny

GPs are gearing up for a confrontation over electronic care records amid serious concerns over patient confidentiality.

Only a third of GPs plan to advise patients to allow their information to be shared, an analysis of the first 250 responses to Pulse's medical ethics survey reveals.

GPs are similarly cautious with their own records – just a third will allow full sharing, and four in 10 will opt out completely and allow no data to be uploaded.

The refusal to co-operate with the NHS Care Records Service will pitch GPs into fresh conflict with ministers, who stand accused of failing to take into account doctors' concerns over their ambitious NHS IT programme.

Pulse's survey found that despite a Government PR drive, more than 80 per cent of GPs still believe electronic care records threaten patient confidentiality.

Just 31 per cent plan to advise patients to share information when Summary Care Records are rolled out across England next year, and one in four will advise against uploading any information at all.

The findings will come as a blow to Connecting for Health, which has stressed the need to win GPs over.

The survey also reveals strong support for changes to the implied consent 'opt out' model, which is supported by only a third of doctors.

Dr John Etherton, a GP in Peacehaven, East Sussex, said patients had already asked him to add Read Codes to their records to ensure they would not be uploaded. 'It's really quite early in the development of this sort of information technology to allow your life to be recorded electronically by a central agency,' he said.

Dr Fiona Underhill, a GP in South Woodford, north-east London, said: 'At the moment we couldn't recommend to patients they have their information uploaded because we've had no guarantees as to who can have access to it.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, GP clinical lead for Connecting for Health, denied the survey was representative of GP opinion, and the Department of Health insisted the early adopter programme in Bolton had drawn a positive response.

But in an interview with Pulse, Lord Warner, the minister formerly responsible for the National Programme for IT, said GPs had become 'over-protective' of existing records systems.

'GPs too often moved themselves from a position where they had been the leaders on IT in the NHS, and were turning themselves into Luddites.'

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