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U-turn over plan for GPs to report Summary Care Record opt-outs

By Steve Nowottny

Controversial plans to force GPs to send their PCT a list of patients who had opted out of the Summary Care Record have been dropped after fears the request could breach confidentiality.

The U-turn by NHS Lincolnshire, one of the first trusts to take part in the care records rollout, comes after Pulse revealed earlier this month that GPs were to be told to hand over patients' details so they could be ‘invited to the surgery to discuss it further.'

Privacy campaigners had warned the move, which echoed the widely-opposed request in 2006 that GPs forward opt-outs to the Department of Health, could breach the confidentiality of patients who had already opted out.

Now PCT bosses have backtracked, ruling that writing to patients who have opted out will be left to practices.

An NHS Lincolnshire spokesperson said: ‘NHS Lincolnshire is managing the letter production and distribution on behalf of practices. One approach being considered was for the practice to advise which patients should not be sent a letter because they have opted out. This has now been revised and practices are writing themselves to patients who have opted out.'

‘No names of opted out patients are therefore being passed on to NHS Lincolnshire.'

Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley in Hampshire who has already opted out hundreds of his patients, welcomed the move – but warned that patients who had opted out should not be asked to reconsider at all.

‘Instead of NHS Lincolnshire pursuing patients and not accepting opt outs, now it's the GPs themselves, or that's how it will look,' he said. ‘Just how many times do you have to say ‘No' to uploading your medical records before Connecting for Health will accept it?'

The national rollout of the Summary Care Record has now begun in earnest, with patients in Stoke-on-Trent the first outside the early adopter areas to receive letters about the project.

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