The Department of Health has announced that the Summary Care Record is to be rolled out across London from this week.

The Princess Street Group Practice in Southwark will be the first GP practice in the capital to upload SCRs, with this scheduled to happen on 19 November. 

The Southwark practice wrote to its patients in August about the forthcoming SCR upload as part of the 12 week patient campaign that must be run before any practice goes live.

Dr Samuel Soo, a partner at the practice, said 70 of the 13,700 patients registered at the surgery had chosen to opt out.

He added: “It is very exciting to be at the forefront of introducing Summary Care Records in London. They are an important step towards delivering better quality of care for my patients.”

The DH said SCRs would also shortly be created at two GP practices in Chingford, Waltham Forest.

Dr Phil Koczan, a partner at one of the Chingford practices and lead clinical for the London Programme for IT, said many of his patients were on a lot of different medication with long-term complex conditions.

He added: “Summary Care Records will give myself and my patients real peace of mind knowing that important information is accessible when it’s needed.”

The launch in London marks a new stage in the SCR programme, which began more than two and a half years ago in NHS Bolton. So far, it has covered only 119 GP practices, with 717,105 SCRs created in ten primary care trust areas.

No timescale has been given for the full roll-out of the SCR in London. However, the DH said the scheme was now “taking off across England” as part of a national roll-out programme.

It said strategic health authorities were working on plans to implement SCRs include NHS East of England, which expects to introduce them by the end of 2010.

Ruth Carnall, chief executive of NHS London, said getting hold of health records for London’s highly mobile population presented challenges for doctors and nurses working out-of-hours and in emergency care.

She said: “The Summary Care Record has demonstrated clear benefits elsewhere in the country and NHS London is keen to bring these to the capital.

Last year, London outlined plans to develop a London Shared Patient Record to sit alongside the SCR and link information from GP systems (EMIS and INPS) plus its community system (RiO) and acute system (Cerner Millenium).

However, last week at E-Health Insider Live ’09 Kevin Jarrold, head of the London programme for IT, said the SCR may be able to deliver more functionality than originally anticipated.

The DH said early adopters of the SCR had already shown evidence of improving out-of-hours care. It also said SCRs could be enriched with extra information, such as a patient’s wishes about end of life care; something 60 patients in NHS Bury have already done.

Health minister Mike O’Brien said SCRs could improve the quality and safety of treatment provided as well as increasing people’s comfort and reassurance.

He added: “We are particularly interested in the experience at Bury which has incorporated end of life wishes for a substantial number of patients. Moving the NHS from good to great needs improvements such as this.”

The potential to include end of life care information was also welcomed by Dr Julia Riley, head of the department of palliative medicine at the Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton NHS Trusts in London.

She said the Royal Marsden have done pioneering work through the Hospital2Home service to ensure that many more patients’ wishes about their end of life care were respected.

She added: “We believe the ability to share relevant, up-to-date information among healthcare staff through the NHS-wide Summary Care Record could build on these initiatives and provide great benefit to our patients.

"I have seen for myself that the process of empowering patients to die where they wish is enabled by the use of the Summary Care Record."

Everybody living in London will receive a letter outlining the initiative and offering them the opportunity to opt out.