Eleven senior BMA committee members have written to the association’s chair of council, Dr Jim Johnson, proposing a special conference to debate issues surrounding privacy, confidentiality and the NHS IT modernisation programme.

The letter says: “There is a distinct lack of policy in this area, particularly in relation to the NHS Care Record [NHS CRS] which could have huge repercussions to patient safety and confidentiality. We feel that a public debate is urgently needed and long overdue.”

The letter was signed by BMA GP committee (GPC) chair Dr Hamish Meldrum; his deputy, Dr Lawrence Buckman; GPC negotiators Dr Richard Vautrey and Dr Stewart Drage; chairs of the joint GP IT committee, Dr Paul Cundy and Dr Alan Hassey; their deputies Dr Grant Ingrams and Dr Paul Robinson; chair of the BMA Welsh Council, Dr Tony Callard; NPfIT GP clinical lead and GPC member, Dr Gillian Braunold and GPC and BMA patient liaison group member, Dr David Wrigley. Support for the conference has also been received from co-chair of BMA patient liaison group, Barbara Wood.

Dr Cundy told EHI Primary Care that no reply had yet been received to the letter, dated 28 January. “I’m keenly awaiting Dr Johnson’s response,” he said.

The BMA has a conference on Doctors and IT scheduled with the National Programme for IT’s Care Record Development Board on 16 May, but the feeling is that a more specific focus on the complex issues of privacy and confidentiality is needed.

Disquiet about the confidentiality arrangements for the NHS CRS have been rumbling on since last summer when the BMA local medical committees conference voted not to engage with the CRS until the "legitimate concerns of GPs" had been addressed.

Later the association’s annual representative meeting demanded that the NHS Care Records System should not be fully implemented until issues over accuracy, consent and data protection are ironed out.

The National Programme for IT has held briefings aimed at reassuring the professions, service and public that confidentiality issues have been covered. Chair of the Care Record Development Board, Harry Cayton has said that the national programme is committed to patients being able to opt out of the electronic record if they wish to do so – and to control parts of their information if they wish.