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Government halts fast track Summary Care Record rollout

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: The Government's IT managers have dropped plans for a massive acceleration in the rollout of the Summary Care Record amid fury from GPs at the way the process has been handled, Pulse can reveal.

The BMA earlier this week called for a mass boycott of the rollout as fears grew that patients were being railroaded into having records created.

Connecting for Health has now agreed for advice given to GPs to change, delaying the process by months at least.

Letters which began going out to homes in around half of England's SHAs last month included the wording: ‘Patients will have 12 weeks from receipt of the letter to decide if they would like to have a Summary Care Record. If a patient does not opt out by that date it is assumed the patient is happy to have a record and the process of creating one will begin.'

But Connecting for Health has now agreed for GP leaders to issue fresh advice to practices, stating there is no deadline for patients to decide.

‘Connecting for Health assures us the 12-week period is a minimum,' says new advice from Londonwide LMCs to GPs in the capital. ‘There is no deadline for practices to satisfy themselves patients have access to sufficient information to make an informed decision.'

A Connecting for Health spokeperson said the advice applied nationally, but denied it had backtracked, claiming: ‘We have always said it is at least 12 weeks. It was a minimum not a maximum.'

The spokesperson said GPs had at least until April 2011 to upload records, ending hopes the programme could be sufficiently rolled out before the election to make it immune to Conservative threats to pull the plug.

Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of the GPC's IT subcommittee, said: ‘They have got themselves into a mess by making this bizarre decision to start a full rollout even before the evaluation they ordered has been produced.'

The BMA's letter, from chair Dr Hamish Meldrum to health minister Mike O'Brien, calls for:

• A halt to the rollout in areas which have not yet written to patients

• Patient to be sent opt-out forms, rather than having to send off for them

• video content on the Connecting for Health website claiming BMA endorsement to be pulled

‘We believe SCRs will generate extra work, which is not part of the contract,' he adds.

Connecting for Health said it was perplexed at to why the BMA had turned against the plans, claiming it had been closely consulted.

Dr Grant Ingrams: Connecting for Health wrong to speed up the rollout Dr Grant Ingrams: Conencting for Health wrong to speed up the rollout BMA turns on records

November 2009
‘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.'
Dr Phil Koczan, Clinical Lead for the London Programme for IT, tells Pulse of plans to accelerate the rollout

March 2010
‘In view of these concerns a significant number of members of the General Practitioners Committee are seriously concerned and are calling for a boycott of the SCR and for the BMA to advise its members against uploading information onto the spine.'
Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair, in letter to Mike O'Brien calling for the rollout to be shelved