The summary care record roll out

The BMA has criticised the roll-out of the Summary Care Record programme, claiming patients do not have enough information and that it is too hard for them to opt out if they want to.

The doctors’ union has publicised its concerns as the government steps up efforts to roll-out the SCR across five strategic health authorities over the next year.

Public Information Programmes (PIPs) for patients in the five SHAs are due to be completed by the end of March, so that the SHAs can take advantage of central funding.

The BMA said the move to speed up the roll-out of the SCR meant patients were not being adequately informed about electronic records.

Dr Grant Ingrams, chair of the GP IT Committee, said: “The Summary Care Record roll-out is now happening too hastily.

"While we believe it has the potential to improve both the quality and safety of patient care, we are concerned at the speed because it means patients are very unlikely to be aware of what they are automatically being enrolled into.”

The Department of Health denied that the move to run PIPs across the country in coming weeks was speeding up the process.

A DH spokesperson told EHI Primary Care: “"We are aware that some patients have concerns about confidentiality and have therefore made it easier for patients to opt out.

"Patients are given at least twelve weeks to decide if they want to have a Summary Care Record and are provided with full information about how to opt out if they wish to.

"We have a coordinated information programme aimed at increasing patient awareness of the initiative across the country. However, this aims to alert and inform patients, rather than speed up the process by which they take a decision."

John May from the BMA’s Patient Liaison Group said the independent evaluation of the SCR early adopter sites showed that seven in ten patients in those areas were not aware of the SCR.

May added: “There needs to be a higher profile national information campaign to ensure everyone can make an informed choice about whether or not they want to be included."

The BMA said it also wanted to see opting-out made easier and criticised NHS Connecting for Health’s failure to include an opt-out form in the information sent to patients.

May added: “ At the moment there’s no opt-out form in the patient information packs being sent to patients across the country. They either have to take the time out of their day to go and see their GP, or phone a call centre, or download a form from the internet and post it in.”

Dr Ingrams added: “We don’t believe the national roll-out needs to be or should be done in a hurry.

"We would like to see it rolled out carefully area by area in a properly supported and evaluated fashion. This should ensure it improves patient care in the way it is intended to, whilst also protecting patient confidentiality.”

The five SHAs planning to run PIPs across all their PCTs by the end of this month are NHS North West, NHS North East, NHS Yorkshire and Humber, NHS London and NHS East of England,

Last week, Londonwide LMCs decided to launch its own information materials on the SCR and suggested that GP practices should consider praoactively contacting patients to tell them about the SCR and their right to opt-in or out.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said the LMC had been prompted to create its own material because “practices were ringing us left, right and centre this week as they had patients coming in confused by the information they had received and asking for clearer information.”

She told EHI Primary Care: “It’s a matter of getting the message across to patients – there is only a limited time period and practices are the ones that will be pressing the button and who need to feel confident that it is with patients’ informed consent.”