Doctors have expressed concern about the benefits of the Summary Care Record programme but stepped back from calling for the roll-out to be halted.
The BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting said it was concerned about evidence questioning the benefits of the English summary record.
However, it did not give its wholehearted backing to calls for the roll-out of the SCR to be stopped. It agreed instead that such a move should be given further consideration by the BMA.
Dr Peter Holden, a negotiator for the BMA’s GP committee, told the ARM that he believed many patients were still ignorant of their right to opt-out.
He also claimed that the benefits of the SCR had been “hugely overstated”, citing last year’s report on the independent evaluation of the SCR by University College London.
Dr Holden added: “There is no direct evidence of improved patient safety apart from some anecdotal evidence which is frankly pretty weak.”
He argued that the NHS was still waiting to see the benefits for patients of emergency summary records and claimed the SCR could become “just another expensive IT white elephant.”
However, the SCR was defended by Dr Paul Flynn, who was one of the BMA adviser’s to the UCL report. He claimed suspension of the roll-out would prevent further monitoring of its potential benefits.
He added: “The SCR is a step along the way to full electronic health records and I think it’s just too early to see benefits in terms of hard outcomes.
"To expect specific measurable clinical benefits is premature. Throughout the history of IT in health no IT has been right from the start.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul from the BMA’s IT committee told the ARM that the BMA did continue to have concerns about the benefits of the SCR but had been closely involved in the review of the SCR.
He said the association had won some major concessions, including the inclusion of an opt-out form in the information pack for patients and a limit on the initial information uploaded.
In other debates at the BMA’s policy-setting conference this week doctors said a series of amendments to the Health Bill and Social Care Bill accepted by the government following its listening exercise did not go far enough.
They passed a motion calling for the Bill to be withdrawn. However, they also narrowly rejected a call for the BMA to oppose the Bill in its entirety.
Doctors were also concerned about pensions. The ARM passed a motion calling for a possible ballot of BMA members on industrial action, after hearing that junior doctors might be better off investing in a private pension than joining a reformed NHS scheme.
The doctors warned that a mass opt-out from the scheme could potentially destablise it. However, Dr Andrew Dearden, the chairman of the BMA's Pensions Committee, said industrial action would be a "last resort."
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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