Doctors’ representatives have stopped short of backing calls for the withdrawal of co-operation from the Summary Care Record programme. They have also refused to seek cancellation of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

GPs and hospital doctors at the BMA’s annual representative meeting did, however, endorse the BMA’s policy that patients should be asked to give explicit consent before records are uploaded and also deplored the accelerated roll-out of the SCR.

Dame Deidre Hine, BMA IT working party chair, told the meeting that it was “the wrong time to bail out” of discussions with NHS Connecting for Health and that it was better for the BMA to continue talks with the NHS IT agency.

Shropshire GP Dr Mary McCarthy told representatives that an explicit consent model for the SCR was needed because patients “don’t understand that silence means consent.”

The meeting also agreed that GPs should be appropriately funded to do the work generated by the SCR programme.

On NPfIT, Belfast consultant anaesthetist Dr Stephen Austin said the programme had been unacceptably costly. But other doctors argued that cancelling the programme would put its successful elements at risk, including the Personal Demographics Service and GP2GP record transfer.

In another motion, the BMA supported calls from Scottish doctors to create further safeguards to protect patient confidentiality by introducing a “proper identity and access management system” for electronic records.

Dr Mary Church, a GP in Lanarkshire, said the ease with which patient information could now be shared between clinicians presented challenges in protecting that information.

She added: “If we are to use electronic patient records them it is essential that we know who has looked at which records and when, so we can ensure only appropriate access.”

Dr Church said there needed to be clear ways to give staff a unique electronic identity as soon as they started work and remove it when they left their post.

She added: “It is a disgrace to hear that new hospital doctors have to borrow others’ passwords in order to work in their new post because they have not yet been given their own password.”

Health secretary Andrew Lansley spoke at the ARM and told doctors that they he wanted their help to construct a “national outcomes framework”.

He also said he wanted doctors’ views on how GP commissioning should work, for which he said proposals would be published soon. He said the aim of the coming Health Bill was “a major transfer of responsibility to the GP community."

The Department of Health is likely to be slimmed down, while a new NHS Commissioning Board is created, with strategic health authorities as its ‘regional outposts.’

Primary Care Trusts are likely to all-but vanish, with most of their secondary care commisisoning functions going to GPs and their provider arms to new types of organisation.