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Luddites - or wise sceptics?

GPs are Luddites, ex-health minister Lord Warner snapped recently. The man formerly responsible for the National Programme for IT seemed bewildered that GPs could not share his grand vision. The project is, after all, one of the most ambitious of its kind in the world, designed to put 60 million patient records a handful of keyboard taps away.

GPs are Luddites, ex-health minister Lord Warner snapped recently. The man formerly responsible for the National Programme for IT seemed bewildered that GPs could not share his grand vision. The project is, after all, one of the most ambitious of its kind in the world, designed to put 60 million patient records a handful of keyboard taps away.

For the zealots in the Department of Health, the sheer, arrogant sweeping scope of it all was reason enough for GPs to log in to the plans.

Entrenched doubts

But sweeping ambition alone is rarely enough to win people over.

As Pulse's survey this week shows, GPs are as entrenched as ever in their doubts over the programme. More than three--quarters believe electronic care records threaten patient confidentiality. Fewer than a third will recommend patients share their records, while a similarly modest proportion will allow their own records to be shared online.

Many GPs also believe patients should have to actively opt in before records are uploaded, although there is a grudging concession among some that an opt-in would kill care records dead – public apathy would see to that.

An alternative might be far tougher safeguards, including more limited sharing within institutions, stricter controls over access to records, more effective sealed envelopes and fully anonymised records for research purposes.

Pushing these demands would allow GPs to protect confidentiality without wearing the Luddite tag.

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