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Patient revolt looming over the summary care record

By Steve Nowottny

Six out of 10 GPs have already been approached by patients wanting to opt out of the new electronic summary care re-cord programme, a Pulse survey has found.

The findings, from a poll of more than 200 GPs from across England, are the first indication of widespread patient concern over the care records project.

The summary care record is so far only operational in a handful of practices in Bolton, and Connecting for Health has yet to write to the millions of patients due to receive an electronic record when it is rolled out across England next year.

But 59% of GPs surveyed said they had already been approached by patients requesting not to have a record created.

Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley in Hampshire, said his practice provided opt-out forms online and in the waiting room. Nearly 250 patients – almost 2% of his practice list – have so far opted out.

'We are receiving a stream of opt-out forms from our patients,' he said. 'To be honest, there is no way we would upload their records without their explicit consent anyway, but an opt-out form gives them a cast-iron guarantee that their re-cords will remain surgery-based.'

Other GPs reported that they had opted out anything from 'loads' of patients to a single patient.

Dr Sally Hope, a GP in Woodstock in Oxfordshire, said: 'What was really scary was the first patient to approach us was someone who had helped design the software for the Spine.'

Stephanie Ellis, an adviser with Patient Concern, said she was unsurprised that patients were pre-emptively requesting not to have a summary care record.

'It's a reflection of many concerns both GPs and their patients have,' she said. 'It's a nationwide issue. People feel uncertain about how the system's going to work, what the confidentiality is, and are worried.'

However, just 0.23% of patients at early adopter practices in Bolton have so far chosen to opt out.Dr Gillian Braunold, GP clinical lead for Connecting for Health, said that following 'negative publicity' around the summary care record, it had been expected some patients from outside the early adopter area would choose to opt-out.

'It was for that very reason that the deputy chief medical officer and I sent out guidance to all practices in England on the same day as leaflets went out in Bolton to give guidance to colleagues,' she said.

'We've always expected that those patients who have a very strong view on this issue would seek to make their views heard to their GP at this point in time, even though they're not part of the early adopter area.'

Our campaign reaches the Commons

Pulse has written this week to a key group of senior MPs who are investigating the electronic patient record, as part of our Common Sense on IT campaign.

In a letter to the 11 members of the health select committee, Pulse outlined GPs' concerns over care record confidentiality, the anonymisation of records used for research and Choose and Book.

Already 250 GPs have signed up to Pulse's campaign, calling for reform to the National Programme for IT.

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