By Ellie Broughton
More than six million Summary Care Records have now been created in England, the Department of Health has revealed.
The controversial scheme was put on hold last year, after concerns about how patients could choose to opt out of the scheme. But Pulse reported in January that mail-outs to patients informing them that they would have a Summary Care Record created had resumed.
Since January as many as two million new records have been uploaded, it was revealed today – bringing the total to around six million.
Previously patients had to fill in a form available at GP surgeries and online in order to opt out, but the new mailing now includes a freepost envelope so that they can reply by post. The Department of Health now expects that everyone in England will have been offered the chance to opt out by 2013.
Dr Charles Gutteridge, National Clinical Director for Informatics, said today that around 30 million patients had received Summary Care Record mailings to date. Most PCTs have created care records for between 10% and 20% of the patient population, he said, although some now have as many as 60% covered. The current opt-out level stands at 1.16%.
Dr Gutteridge said that the Summary Care Record was already helping frontline clinicians deliver improved care for patients.
‘Out-of-hours doctors in areas which have already created a majority of patient Summary Care Records are reporting how helpful they are in terms of providing safe and effective patient care,’ he said. ‘The more clinicians are exposed to the Summary Care Record, the more value they give it.’
The decision to press ahead with the Summary Care Record rollout comes despite pre-election attacks from both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on centralised records-keeping. In 2009, the Conservative party pledged to ‘dismantle central NHS IT infrastructure’, replacing it with interoperable local systems, while Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb last year called for an end to an ‘obsession with massive central databases’.
Summary care records six million