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IT concerns now on record

When Pulse campaigned last year for an overhaul of the Government’s plans for electronic care records, we got short shrift from Connecting for Health.

When Pulse campaigned last year for an overhaul of the Government's plans for electronic care records, we got short shrift from Connecting for Health.



When Pulse campaigned last year for an overhaul of the Government's plans for electronic care records, we got short shrift from Connecting for Health.

Our campaign called for patients to have to give explicit consent before records were accessed, after GPs made clear their concerns over the threat to confidentiality.

IT bosses told us in no uncertain terms that we were scaremongering. Dr Gillian Braunold, clinical lead for the Summary Care Record at Connecting for Health, insisted: ‘The model of patient consent we have adopted can have the full confidence of the profession.'

But this week's publication of the official evaluation of the care records rollout leaves Connecting for Health's response to criticism looking like a serious case of complacency.

GPs told a succession of surveys, by huge majorities, that implied consent was just not good enough. Audits revealed that far more patients chose to opt out when specifically asked than was ever recorded in the care record pilots.

But Connecting for Health took none of that criticism on board, and as a consequence must now take the stingingly critical official report on the chin.

Lack of awareness

The evaluation concludes that most patients in the pilot areas were not aware of the care record programme at all – raising ‘important questions about the ethics of implied consent'.

The researchers advised that patients should have to give explicit consent every time a member of staff wanted to access their records – a model backed by the BMA.

And they called for the Government to slam on the brakes and bring its IT programme to a screeching halt, calling for a ‘more emergent and negotiable framework of timescales'.

That final recommendation is critical.

A model of explicit consent for every upload may address confidentiality concerns, but it could generate a sizeable workload.

There will be ways to make it work, but progress will have to be steady and, by necessity, slow.

Pulse Editorial

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