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Summary Care Record improving GP out-of-hours prescribing and helping patients die where they choose, DH data shows

Exclusive: Out-of-hours GPs are changing their prescribing decisions after accessing a patient's Summary Care Record in around a third of cases, Pulse has learned, as the Department of Health prepares to publish data outlining the achievements of the programme so far.

Some 1,600 records are now viewed each week by out-of-hours providers and in other urgent care and hospital settings, with the programme's clinical director Dr Gillian Braunold claiming the rollout has now reached a ‘critical mass' in some areas.

One in five patients across England has now had a care record created – some 11 million in total – while more than 35 million patients have been contacted and told they will have a record created for them if they do not opt out.

Dr Braunold told Pulse the Summary Care Record was now proving of real benefit to clinicians, with the Department of Health due to publish official data imminently.

She said: ‘Primary care out-of-hours clinicians are finding that access to the information is making their consultations safer.'

‘On average, we are finding one in five of patients that turn up in out-of-hours, that is when we are finding it is making a difference. About 30% of cases, they are finding it is changing their therapeutic decisions because they have access to the Summary Care Record.'

Dr Braunold said there was also evidence from areas where end-of-life care plans had been uploaded to care records that more patients were dying in their preferred place.

She added that the future was to increase the scope of the Summary Care Record to help the 111 pilots run by NHS Direct and implement the Government's much-trumpeted ‘Information Revolution'.

She also confirmed plans – first revealed by Pulse – for nurses at NHS Direct to have access to care records and said they were working on plans to replace HealthSpace and enable patients to access their full patient record.

‘NHS Direct can be manned by nurses who can be asking permission of patients to access their Summary Care Record and there is no reason that cannot happen on the telephone, just as it does in face-to-face consultations,' she said.

But Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said he believed many patients did not want a Summary Care Record.

‘In my practice we have an opt-in policy - only seven have opted in. I don´t believe anyone in casualty will have time to access it and in the out-of-hours setting patients will have a list of repeat prescriptions from their GP in any case.

"It´s really just technology for its own sake. It doesn´t justify the millions being spent on it. In times of financial stringency they should scrap most of the IT programme and invest the money in patient care."

And Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley, Hampshire said: ‘Many doctors still don´t see the benefit of it. They may open it, may glance at it but that doesn´t mean to say that it has actually been useful in the consultation.

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