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A leading GP involved with the National Programme for IT has sought to calm doctors' fears over the content and security of the planned national electronic patient record.

Dr Mike Bainbridge, senior clinical architect for the national programme, said not all information would be 'Hoov-ered' from GPs' notes to make up the new centrally-held National Care Record.

He added that final decisions had yet to be made over what data would be held on the system and how information would be shared.

GPs have raised concerns that entire patient records would be transferred to the so-called 'spine', leading to major breaches in patient confidentiality.

'The record on the spine is best viewed as a continuity of care record,' said Dr Bainbridge. 'It's not a replacement for local systems. There is no Hoover [of all patient data from GP records].'

He added that GPs still have ample opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process and that a decision had not been taken over what would go in the 'sealed envelope' ­ part of the spine that will contain sensitive data such as HIV status. 'Central to all that we are seeking to do is security, confidentiality and ethically and morally appropriate behaviour,' said Dr Bainbridge, a former GP.

Dr John Williams, chair of the RCGP Informatics Group, said the comments were 'a ray of light in the gloom'.

He added: 'I'm picking up signals that we are entering a phase where clinical involvement is going to rise dramatically.'

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