The roll-out of a national cervical cytology screening system for Scotland could be delayed after GPs discovered that practice staff would be able to view the test results for all women in Scotland.

The gaping hole in the security of the Scottish Cervical Screening Call Recall System has only just emerged, just months ahead of a national launch date of 1 May.

Dr Stuart Scott, joint deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee, said the failure of the system to protect patients’ confidentiality became apparent during testing of the system a couple of weeks ago.

He told EHI Primary Care: “Anyone who has a log in for the system can see the results of all patients’ in Scotland rather than just the results of those patients registered at their practice. It’s completely unacceptable.”

Dr Scott said the Scottish Executive Health Department had put the rollout of the SCCRS on hold as soon as the potential confidentiality breach was discovered and was now working on a solution.

Dr Scott added: “They are hoping that they can get this resolved quickly.”

The SCCRS developed by NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) will replace a mixture of call and recall systems for cervical cytology currently used in Scotland with some GP practices using their own clinical system’s call and recall programmes while others rely on call and recall programmes run by their health board. The SCCRS had an original roll-out date of December which was then put back to 1 May, and could now face further delay if the confidentiality concerns cannot be addressed in time.

Dr Brian Robson, medical director for e-health at NSS, promised last week that the issue would be dealt with before the system was rolled out across Scotland.

He told BMA News: “This is not an acceptable situation. I can give an assurance on behalf of National Services Scotland that SCCRS will not be launched until this is sorted out.”

A Scottish Executive spokesperson told EHI Primary Care that all staff accessing cervical screening data are bound by professional and NHS codes of conduct and must comply with NHS Scotland rules on patient confidentiality and that access to cervical screening data is password protected for authorised users only.

She added: "We understand NSS, who oversee the Scottish Cervical Screening Call Recall System, have met with GPs to discuss their concerns with administrative staff having access to data and they are taking forward work to resolve this issue. The new call/recall system currently remains on schedule to be implemented throughout Scotland on 1st May 2007."

Dr Scott said the GPC has also raised concerns that the system that would be initially implemented in Scotland was web-based rather than integrated into GP IT systems. He said work had now begun to speed up the introduction of an integrated version although it would not be ready for the proposed May launch date.

He added: “We don’t want the benefits of a centralised call and recall system to be put on hold while that arrives but it should be ready some time over the summer.”