SCR opt-out letters would confuse

  • 15 March 2010

The summary care record roll out

The risk that patients would misread opt-out forms for the Summary Care Record and send them to the wrong address has led to them being excluded from patient information packs, Connecting for Health has told GPs.

Dr Gillian Braunold, clinical director for the SCR and HealthSpace, has written an open letter to GPs following the recent criticism of the SCR roll-out and a call from the BMA for the roll-out to be suspended.

Dr Braunold’s letter covers concerns raised by the BMA and others since the SCR began to be rolled out across five strategic health authorities and emphasises that no practice will begin SCR creation without the practice’s full agreement.

Dr Braunold’s letter says the information sent to patients includes a pre-paid envelope and order form for patients to request additional information. She states that early adopters found that patients misread the opt-out form and filled in everything, including the opt-out form, and sent it back in the pre-paid envelope when that is not what they wanted.

It adds: “Most importantly though the opt-out forms must be returned to the GP practice and there is a significant risk that those patients who want to opt out complete the opt out form and include in the pre-paid envelope which then would not be sent to the GP practice to be acted on accordingly.”

Dr Braunold‘s letter emphasises that the 12 week period allowed before SCRs are created is a minimum period. Her letter adds: “In many cases practices will not go live immediately after the 12 week period but sometime after when they have received the appropriate training and software upgrade.”

The emphasis on the 12 week consultation period as a minimum period is also included in new advice issued by Londonwide LMCs at the end of last week which it says has the support of CfH.

The LMCs’ guidance states that the approach practices take to uploading records must balance a practice’s confidence about patients’ level of awareness and access to key patient information and the risk of uploading data.

It adds: “The risks to be balanced are a) the risk you carry when a patient who had the opportunity to have data uploaded was denied the benefit of that upload during an emergency against b) the risk you carry when a patient is denied the autonomy to opt-out of a data upload when you are in a position of control over that data.”

The LMC guidance adds: “It therefore follows that spending a reasonable period of time ensuring you are confident that your patients’ awareness has been amply raised and your risks have been balanced is an appropriate approach to take.”

Dr Braunold letter to GPs adds: “I am personally encouraged by the increasing benefit that the SCR is brining, particularly to GP out of hours with more than 10,000 SCRs used to date in those settings.”

CfH’s website said this week that it is expecting that a meeting will be held with the BMA to discuss the concerns raised in the association’s letter to the minister on the SCR.

A spokesperson for CfH told EHI Primary Care: “The minister regularly meets the BMA and no doubt this will be discussed at the next meeting.”

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