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One in six GPs snub care record

By Steve Nowottny

Exclusive: GPs are boycotting the rollout of the Summary Care Record in their droves, in a move that casts serious doubt over the rollout of the project, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Among practices specifically invited to join the rollout, one in six has refused to do so, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 91 PCTs.

In 36 areas which have begun the rollout and provided complete figures, 1,732 practices have been invited to participate – with 286 so far declining to take part.

In some areas, half or more of practices have refused offers to sign up, amid fears over confidentiality, lack of patient awareness and the huge workload in uploading records.

In NHS North Lancashire, where all 38 practices have been invited, only one has formally signed up to a pilot, while in NHS Cambridgeshire, which began contacting practices in December, just 37 of 77 have shown interest.

In other areas, PCTs appear to have ridden roughshod over GPs' concerns – writing to all patients to offer them a care record without the backing of some local GPs. NHS Peterborough wrote to all its patients in March – even though five practices have yet to agree to participate.

A spokesperson for NHS Hammersmith and Fulham said: ‘We haven't invited any practices to take part - it is not GPs' choice, it is patients' choice. All [practices] have been informed of our plans.'

But in other areas, PCT support appears to be wavering, with some, such as the Torbay Care Trust, having no plans to begin a local rollout until the end of 2011 at the earliest.

NHS Buckinghamshire appears to have rejected the rollout entirely, arguing the care record is not fit for purpose.

It said: ‘Although NHS Buckinghamshire believes a summary and shared record of some form is required to support new pathway-based working, at present, Connecting for Health's Summary Care Record does not meet those requirements.'

The investigation also reveals huge variation in spending on the care record rollout, over and above the £7.5 million of central funding Pulse revealed earlier this month.

While some PCTs claimed to have spent nothing, or to have incorporated costs within existing budgets, others have spent thousands on training, project management and advertising.

NHS Dorset, one of the early adopters, said it had spent £190,000 on the rollout, and expected to spend a further £70,000. It has so far uploaded 159,580 records - although none have yet been used.

Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP in Yateley, Hampshire, and a long-time critic of the Summary Care Record, said: 'If the care record was as ground-breaking as Connecting for Health makes out, patients would be demanding it from their GPs, practices would be screaming for it from their PCTs and trusts would be banging on their SHAs' doors insisting on it.'

One in six GPs snub care record rollout In Depth

Dr Grant Ingrams answers your questions on the Summary Care Record.