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Summary Care Record 'will be delayed until 2015'

By Christian Duffin

The Summary Care Record system has been plunged into further crisis with a report showing the nationwide rollout will be put back until 2015 at the earliest.

The National Audit Office delivered another blow to Department of Heath IT chiefs' controversial rollout , in a damning report which concluded that the targets set have proved to be unachievable, unrealistic and have dashed faith in the system .

Its report comes only two weeks after an independent evaluation report by University College London researchers which called for Connecting for Health to go back to the drawing board over fundamental aspects of the plan, amid widespread patient confusion, GP opposition and technology problems.

Also this week fresh evidence emerged to increase fears over the confidentiality of patient data under the Department of Health's IT rollout, as Pulse reveals a series of potential security breaches were risks by faults in the technology surrounding another flagship policy, the Chose and Book referral system.

The National Audit Office report found that the original plan for all patient to have a Summary Care Record by 2010 had proved wildly optimistic.

As of March 2008, just two of the five early adopter areas - Bolton and Bury - had begun uploading records and the report said: ‘Current indications are that it is likely to take some four years more than planned – until 2014-15 – before every NHS Trust has fully deployed the care records systems.'

The report also found that he projected cost of the programme had risen to £12.7 bn (at 2004-5 prices0, compared to the original £12.4bn, due mainly to unforeseen expenditure on solving IT issues, although the spending to date, totalling £3,550m was 44% below expected because of the delays.

Althouh the report claimed in the long run the system would save money, it said there was very little evidence to date of any benefit to patient services. It also warned that many doctors still had concerns over security, amid an ongoing review by all SHAs.

The report said it was vital that in future timeframes set should be realistic but added that because of delays in IT systems vast areas in the north, midlands and the east of England still had no strategic system to handle the rollout.

The BMA said it was vital Connecting for health learnt from its mistakes.

‘Slipping deadlines for new IT systems and the premature release of systems that are not fit for purpose has been deeply frustrating for NHS staff, leaving many doctors thoroughly disillusioned with the programme,' said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the BMA's GP negotiator for IT.

The extent of the slippage is huge. In February Pulse revealed Connecting for Health planned to rollout the record in every SHA by the end of this summer.

Pulse has since revealed a catalogue of problems in the trial areas, with the UCL report two weeks ago accusing Conencting for Health of rushing the rollout to meet poltclical targets and calling for a fundamental shake-up in the patient consent model.

A Connecting for Health spokesperson said it regretted the delays which were down to ‘a mixture of technical complexity' and fears over confidentiality which had forced IT chiefs to consult on further protective measures.

However, Connecting for Health this week admitted new cases of potential security breaches.

Last week Pulse reported how a security flaw in the Chose and Book system meant that records could have been exposed to staff without an NHS smartcard, after being alerted by a GP in Essex.

Dr Gillian Braunold, Connecting for Health's clinical director for the Summary Care Record, said the glitch had been found to be caused by tiny pieces of dirt which fool NHS computers into thinking a smartcard is still inserted but which was a ‘one in a million' occurrence. Yet Dr Braunual admitted that, to date , she was aware of three incidents.

‘They weren't filthy cards, they just had a bit of dirt on. We will look into how this happened and what could be done,' she said.

Shadow Health Minister, Stephen O'Brien, said: ‘The Government has spent billions yet all they have to show for it is a patient record system which is behind schedule and compromises individual privacy, and a ‘choose and book' system also behind schedule and which, when it works, is irritating doctors and patients alike.'

National Audit Office report key findings National Audit Office report

Projected cost has risen to £12.7 bn (at 2004-5 prices), compared to original £12.4bn

IT chiefs have spent less than half the money to date they were supposed to because of delays

Fears over security have potential to derail confidence


Vast areas of England have no capacity to handle the system

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: 'Doctors thoroughly disillusioned with the programme' Dr Chaand Nagpaul: 'Doctors thoroughly disillusioned with the programme' Care record likely to be delayed until 2015

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