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Long-awaited report reveals 'insoluble' flaws in Summary Care Record rollout

By Alisdair Stirling

A major investigation into the roll-out of the Summary Care Record published today has concluded the use of electronic records is low and the benefits have been exaggerated.

The long-awaited report found records did not reduce consultation times or increase patient safety and were rarely accessed in secondary care.

The three-year independent evaluation from University College London researchers was shelved by the previous Government until after the election and lists a myriad of ‘insoluble' problems with the scheme.

It says the scheme had a ‘rare but important' impact on medication errors, but records contained inaccuracies such as incomplete medication lists or missing allergies which clinicians had to compensate for.

It said progress had been delayed by ‘wicked' - pervasive or insoluble – problems, including the difficulty of ensuring GP records were up-to-date and accurate.

The benefits anticipated for Summary Care Records and the associated Healthspace project could only be achieved ‘at high cost and enormous effort' the report concludes.

Last week the government announced a review of the national roll-out of Summary Care Records.

It had previously pledged to keep the system, in spite of both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats promising to do away with it while they were in opposition.

The report concluded:

  • Summary Care Records are not widely available and when they are, clinicians do not always access them
  • As of March 1st 2010, fewer than 30 Summary Care Records were being accessed in secondary care settings per week nationwide
  • Summary Care Records did not reduce consultation times or increase patient safety but had a ‘rare but important' impact on medication errors
  • People using Healthspace perceived few if any benefits from it

Lead author Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, now professor of primary health care at Queen Mary´s University of London said: ´This research shows that the significant benefits anticipated for these programmes have, by and large, yet to be realised.

‘When we did find them, they were subtle, hard to articulate and difficult to isolate.´

GPC chair, Dr Laurence Buckman said the investigation had uncovered some very serious issues.

‘It should not have been rolled out ahead of the findings of this evaluation,' he said.

Last week, LMC representatives supported a motion calling for the BMA to 'formally and publicly abandon its acceptance of an "opt out" system' earlier this month.

Long-awaited report reveals 'insoluble' flaws in Summary Care Record rollout

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