This site is intended for health professionals only

Care record confusion as patients told to opt out twice

By Steve Nowottny

Exclusive: Patients who opted out of the Summary Care Record before their PCT officially launched the scheme have been told to opt out a second time to avoid being put on the database, amid mounting confusion around the rollout in some areas.

Connecting for Health insists that a second opt-out is not required if patients have previously told their GP they do not wish to take part – but admitted there are ‘confusions out there' with practices in some areas believing they had been instructed otherwise.

Patients in at least two areas, North Yorkshire and Stoke-on-Trent, have been told by practices they would have to ‘re-register their preference' in order to ensure that their records were not uploaded.

The Beech House Surgery in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, wrote to a dozen patients who had previously opted out of the scheme warning them they would have to do so again ‘because the Government feels that patients should be properly informed about the pros and cons of having their summary records on the national spine.'

‘Despite having expressed your wishes already, if you still wish to opt out of the Summary Care Record creation process, you will need to respond to the Government's letter on the form provided,' patients were told.

In a separate incident, a patient in Stoke-on-Trent told the NO2ID website: ‘Just out of curiosity I went to the surgery last week to make sure that my records wouldn't be uploaded, and was told by the receptionist that all practices had been informed that opt-outs would only be permitted if the patient filled in the PCT's approved form.'

Both NHS North Yorkshire and York and NHS Stoke-on-Trent told Pulse that no such policy exists, and the Beech House Surgery is now planning to send a clarification to its patients.

When first contacted by Pulse, NHS Connecting for Health initially said that a second opt out would be required for patients opted out – but later clarified that this was not in fact the case.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are absolutely clear that anyone who has already expressed their wishes about opting out shouldn't have to go through any other process.'

‘Historically that stands, and similarly we're not insisting everybody fills in an opt out form. The bottom line is if people have a wish to opt out we want to make it as simple and straightforward as possible.'

But she admitted that the policy might not have filtered down to all GP practices.

‘Obviously having seen that letter, there are confusions out there and we would want to correct them as swiftly as possible,' she said.

Nick Bentley, practice manager at the Beech House Surgery, said the practice would be writing again to patients – but blamed the confusion on the recent acceleration of the rollout.

‘It's been rolled out far too quickly as the GPC have said,' he said. ‘This has been the whole problem all along.'

Meanwhile a new report out today claims hundreds of thousands of non-medical personnel already have access to existing confidential medical records.

An investigation by confidentiality campaigners Big Brother Watch found more than 100,000 non-medical staff have access to files in acute trusts with, on average, 723 staff not involved in patient care in each trust having access to medical records.

The report added: 'It is the Summary Care Record that poses the most danger to privacy in terms of the immediacy of access it grants to patient medical details.'

The Summary Care Records rollout has been hit by fresh confusion over the opt-out process The Summary Care Records rollout has been hit by fresh confusion over the opt-out process