By Ian Quinn
GPs are set to sabotage the uploading of Summary Care Records after Department of Health IT chiefs decided against suspending the rollout, despite the revelation that up to 200,000 patients have been put at risk by inaccuracies.
The former chair of the GPC’s IT subcommittee today urged practices across the country to block the uploading of care records en masse, by automatically opting out all of their patients unless they have specifically said they want a record created.
GPs are furious that the DH is pushing ahead with the rollout, despite a report by UCL finding that Summary Care Records had led to inaccurate data about patients being uploaded and that staff were routinely abusing rules that patients should be asked every time their record is accessed.
Pulse exclusively revealed earlier this month that up to 200,000 patient records in England could contain inaccuracies, after GPs at a pilot site in Birmingham were told that one in 10 records contained potentially life-threatening error. The warning led to a call from the BMA for the use of all records to be suspended.
Although the Government plans to abandon a centralised rollout in favour of patient-led records under the new principle that there should be ‘no decision about me, without me’, the Department’s IT chiefs – set to be the subject of a sweeping spending review later this year – are still refusing to switch to an opt-in model
Dr Paul Cundy, former chair of the GPC’s IT subcommittee and a GP in Wimbledon, said GPs should now take matters into their own hands.
‘The UCL report confirms what we’d always told Connecting for Health: that their design was unsafe and wouldn’t work,’ he said.
Dr Cundy said that whilst the BMA and the GPC can make statements, both are hindered by trade union law from giving practical advice. But he offered as personal advice two options for GPs – either refusing to take part in the programme, or marking patient records with a read code that will effectively block uploads.
‘This is the best option – for any patient who’s not explicitly told them that they want to have a SCR, GPs should enter a 93C3 read code into their notes,’ he said. ‘This will stop any uploads to the SCR and will enable the system to run on an explicit opt-in basis, which is what everyone has been demanding.’
‘I will be doing this in my surgery before the end of the month. GPs should contact their system supplier or their user group for system-specific instructions on how to do this.’
Dr Cundy added: ‘The UCL report changes the game. Previously GPs might also have had to write to all their patients telling them that they were doing this but the emerging news that the SCR is actually positively unsafe means they definitely no longer need to do this. Stopping uploads protects patients’ data and certainly does them no harm.’
BMA leaders claim the Department of Health ploughed ahead with the rollout despite being aware for months that it had led to dangerous data lapses, including wrong information about patient medication and allergies.
But this week the DH told Pulse it had decided not to halt the rollout – despite newly uncovered minutes from a recent meeting of the pilot board in South Birmingham stating that even Dr Gillian Braunold, the national project’s medical director, supported practices who refused to take part in the rollout unless the Government switched to an opt in model.
‘Gillian B has confirmed to support the opt in option,’ the minutes say.
But a spokesperson for the DH said: ‘The minutes are inaccurate – that is not Gillian Braunold’s view. We are fully committed to reviewing the information sent to patients about the Summary Care Record and the process by which they can record their preference, as well as reviewing the content of the record.’
‘As the White Paper said, NHS services will increasingly be empowered to be the customers of a more plural system of IT and other suppliers.’
The spokesman said the DH ‘did not recognise’ the BMA’s figures of the number of inaccuracies and refused to answer the allegations that it had known for months that there had been thousands of data lapses.
Dr Paul Cundy plans to add a 93C3 read code to all his patient’s records by the end of the month Dr Paul Cundy plans to add a 93C3 read code to all his patient’s records by the end of the month