The British Medical Association has written to the government calling for the roll-out of the Summary Care Record to be suspended.
In a letter to health minister Mike O’Brien, the doctors’ union claims the roll-out of the SCR has been accelerated before sufficient independent evaluation of the pilot areas has taken place.
It calls on the Department of Health to consider halting implementation in areas where Public Information Programmes have not yet started.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA Council chairman, said: “The break-neck speed with which this programme is being implemented is of huge concern. Patients’ right to opt-out is crucial and it is extremely alarming that records are apparently being created without them being aware of it.
“If the process continues to be rushed not only will the rights of patients be damaged but the limited confidence of the public and the medical profession in NHS IT will be further eroded.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the SCR was an important patient safety initiative widely supported by clinicians and patients.
She added: "We are surprised to have a five year time frame criticised as a 'break-neck pace' when the programme had been previously cirticised for its slow uptake.
"We absolutely support the right of any patient to opt out of having a summary care record and have provided various options to make this process straightforward."
The BMA said GPs had reported that the roll-out of the programme had left them without time to support patients in making an informed choice and claimed that in some cases records were being created without even implied consent from patients.
The letter, signed by Dr Meldrum together with Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, and Dr Deidre Hine, chairman of the BMA’s Working Party on NHS IT, calls for a halt to the roll-out of the SCR and the inclusion of an opt-out form in the information sent to patients.
It states that the BMA accepted limited roll-out of the SCR following the interim evaluation published in May2008 but wanted a review of the PIP and piloting of the new consent model before further roll-out.
The letter adds: “We are therefore very surprised and disappointed that a much wider roll out was announced in December 2009 and this is in progress counter to the BMA’s position.”
The BMA’s letter says the plan to complete PIPs across five strategic health authorities by the end of March is “impacting upon the level of patient awareness resulting in records being created without even implied or presumed patient consent.”
The letter says the BMA and GPC are also concerned about data quality in SCRs for those practices that did not complete the IM&T directed enhanced service which ended in March 2009 and claims that SCRs will also generate additional work for practices.
The BMA also criticises inclusion of a BMA view relating to the original independent evaluation which it says has been included in a CfB “promotional video” on the SCR.
The letter states: “We request that this BMA comment is removed from the video forthwith to ensure that there is no misrepresentation of the BMA’s position regarding the accelerated roll out.”
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