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LMCs reject opt-out model for care records

The Government's controversial plans to upload electronic patient records were condemned as morally wrong by GPs at the LMCs conference.

Representatives unanimously passed a motion that deplored the 'steady erosion of patient confidentiality' in the rollout of the Summary Care Record and called on the GPC to 'harden its stance on the issue'.

There was also overwhelming backing for the ditching of the implied consent model being used for the rollout and for patients to give their explicit consent to uploads or sharing.Delegates backed a motion expressing 'grave concerns' with the implementation of the programme to date and called for lessons to be learned from the early adopter sites in Bolton and Bury.

However, a proposed demand for a public inquiry into the programme was rejected after opponents claimed it would be 'expensive, time-consuming and change nothing'.

Dr Simon Parkinson, secretary of Worcestershire LMC, said proposals to share records, based on an implied consent model, were 'pushing the boundaries of confidentiality too far and too fast'.He said: 'We believe we should take a moral stance on this issue. Patients have a right to absolute confidentiality.'

Dr Preston de Mendonca of Devon LMC also attacked the implied consent model for failing to give patients control over how their records were used.

'This is the Big Brother Leviathan telling us how to live our lives,' he said. 'Designers need to design a hokey-cokey switch – so we can opt in, opt out, opt in as we please.'

He added: 'Confidentiality is a bit like virginity – you can't lose just a bit of it.'

Dr George Ogden, a GP in Bolton at one of the first practices to take part in the Summary Care Record early adopter programme, admitted Bolton LMC had been split by the debate. But speaking against the motion, he predicted patients would ultimately back the programme.

'The Summary Care Record that I've been involved with doesn't seem to bear any relation to the Summary Care Record described by the proposer,' he said. 'My patients assume that we do something like this already.'

However, Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, said Connecting for Health had failed to make it clear exactly how electronic patient records would work.

'A major problem with this record is we don't actually know what it's going to be,' he said. 'We're told one thing one day, one thing another day.'

A motion calling for a directed enhanced service to fund additional workload caused by the electronic record scheme was also rejected.

Dr Peter Swinyard from Wiltshire LMC said: 'What do you want a DES for? If we accept a DES we also accept responsibility for what we're doing.'

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