The British Medical Association has urged the NHS to stop immediately the rollout of Summary Care Records beyond initial pilot sites, until it has made the changes advised in a key report released yesterday.
Yesterday’s report, called the ‘Summary Care Record early adopter programme’, monitored the use of the SCRs by four of the early adopter trusts, and was conducted by researchers at University College London. It quoted doctors who had called the new system “clunky”, adding that it “interfaces poorly with other ICT systems”.
It also said that some GPs had struggled to keep pace with the new systems, as NHS trusts had forced a fast pace of change.
The electronic record system is a key part of the government’s £12.4 billion National Programme for IT, and will contain information on patients’ details, prescriptions and allergies, and further data will be added over time.
Dame Deirdre Hine, chair of the BMA working party on IT, said: “Connecting for Health now has clear guidance on the changes necessary to make the project both more effective and acceptable to patients and those concerned with their care.”
She said she hoped CfH would “move quickly” in responding to the guidance. “However, we would strongly urge that until these changes are made there should be no further roll out of the scheme beyond the pilot sites already taking part."
Yesterday’s report also quoted doctors who had questioned the ethics and legality of a system that assumed patient consent, even when a number of patients in early adopter regions had failed to understand letters they had been sent explaining the scheme.
Hine said the BMA supported a recommendation in the report that patients have more choice over who accesses their records and what is stored on file. “We support the recommendation to move to a 'consent to view' system which would meet much of the concern about informed consent expressed by doctors and gives patients appropriate control of their personal data.”
This is not the first time the BMA has been critical of the rollout of the care records system and other parts of the NPfIT. Late last year, well ahead of the UCL review, it wrote to health minister Ben Bradshaw calling for a halt to the roll-out of patients’ summary care records until the results had been reviewed.
It has also expressed unhappiness with security and confidentiality of the NHS Choose and Book appointments system, another part of the NPfIT.
Last June, it called for a public inquiry into escalating costs and the emerging data protection worries it associated with the whole programme. It urged doctors to refuse to co-operate with centralised storage of medical records.