The length of the patient information programme run before Summary Care Records are uploaded to the Spine could be cut by up to 50% if NHS Connecting for Health plans are agreed.

A meeting of today’s Summary Care Record Advisory Group will be asked for its advice on the plans to reduce the length of the PIP from 16 to 12 or eight weeks.

Strategic health authority communication leads have told CfH that awareness campaigns should not be cut to eight weeks because significant medical history could be included in the SCR and patients need 12 weeks to make an informed choice.

However, a paper to be put to the SCRAG meeting, seen by EHI Primary Care, says reducing the patient awareness campaign would mean the benefits of the SCR being available sooner.

CfH says the benefits of the SCR could be realised eight or four weeks earlier if the PIP is reduced. This would equate to an additional 1,168 or 584 weeks during which the benefits could be realised, taking into account the 146 primary care trusts yet to take part in the programme.

The paper adds: “The time lag between a patient being informed of the SCR and their SCR being created would be reduced, thereby reducing the number of instances where patients attending care settings would expect to have an SCR but finding that they haven’t yet been created.”

It also argues that an eight or 12 week awareness programme would still allow enough time for patients to get any additional information they needed before making a decision.

The SCRAG, made up of key stakeholder organisations including patient groups, the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association, is asked to give its views and what timescale would be preferable.

CfH’s SCR programme will present data from early adopter PCTs that shows calls to the NHS Care Records Helpline only increase in the two weeks after a PIP has been launched.

It will also present data showing that requests for further information only increase in roughly the first three weeks after information about the SCR is sent out by post.

The current 16 week length of the PIPs compares to the Department of Health’s standard 12 week full public consultation. In the summary care record projects in Scotland and Wales there is no period of consultation.

A spokesperson for CfH told EHI Primary Care: “As part of a review of the Summary Care Record Communications Strategy we are also exploring options for the the Public Information Programme. As part of this process we will be consulting with our key stakeholders."

Seventeen primary care trusts are due to begin implementing the Summary Care Record before 1 April as part of a “fast follower” group that will lead the national roll-out of the SCR, as EHI Primary Care revealed earlier this month.