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Summary Care Record set for mass rollout

By Ian Quinn

More than 10 million patients are to be given three months to opt out of the Summary Care Record or have the controversial computer files created automatically as Government IT chiefs push the button on a massive acceleration in the programme.

The Department of Health announced this week it was dispensing with trials of the rollout at selected GP practices which have bought into the programme, in favour of a mass rollout.

It has decided that unless the programme, which has been threatened with the axe by the Tories, achieves critical mass quickly, it will not be able to achieve the huge health benefits its supporters claim it will bring.

However, the change in strategy puts Connecting for Health ona collision course with opponents of the rollout, raising fears GPs will be bypassed in the patient information process.

In London six million patients will be written to in the New Year, being given 12 weeks to opt out.

Crunch meetings have been arranged for December between Londonwide LMCs, individual GPs and Connecting for Health leaders.

But the DH told Pulse that regardless of those discussions, the new blanket-approach rollout was set to press ahead in at least two more SHAs, with East of England SHA planning to create records for its 5.6 million patients by the end of next year.

Dr Phil Koczan, Clinical Lead for the London Programme for IT, and a GP in Chingford, said: ‘For the Summary Care Record to be successful it needs to have critical mass.'

‘I wouldn't say this is make or break but increasingly the challenge is to speed up the momentum.'

In September Pulse revealed an official report on behalf of Summary Care Record chiefs by University College London found little evidence it had brought any benefits - that it rarely worked in out-of-hours care and was of little use in A&E.

But Dr Koczan said the problems were mostly of scale rather than political opposition, claiming the BMA was ‘generally on board now.'

He said the pilots in Bolton, Bury, Bradford, Dorset, south west Essex and south Birmingham had seen a less than one per cent opt out by patients, adding: ‘There are still concerns among some GPs about patients having the right information to opt out. There are those who are concerned about workload and about confidentiality but they are not really up to date with the current thinking within the BMA.'

However, Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of the BMA's GP IT committee, said while it accepted care records had the potential to improve patient safety and care, evidence from the pilots showed patients had not been made fully aware of their right to opt out.

'It is critical patients receive balanced information and are made aware of their option to opt out.'

‘Doctors must be fully informed about the programme as they will need to advise their patients,' he added, saying the BMA feared GPs could be ‘overwhelmed' with enquiries.

A Londonwide LMC spokesperson said: ‘GP practices in London have continuing concerns about patients being clear about Summary Care Records. Chief among the anxieties expressed by GPs is the need for patients to be able to opt into their confidential medical information that is loaded on to the system. This is particularly important with the high levels of patients for whom English is a second language.'

The Summary Care Record is to be rolled out across the capital The Summary Care Record is to be rolled out across the capital

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