Richard Veryard has written a response to our report on inaccuracies and ommisions in the Summary Care Records database. He writes:"What's wrong with the single version of truth."
Researchers at University College, London, found in a confidential draft report that doctors were unable to trust the SCR database as a single source of truth.
NHS Connecting for Health has pointed out that errors and gaps in the SCR database are not its fault - they're because of problems with GP-held data.
CfH's response characterises its approach to the NPfIT: if problems are not of its own making, they don't particularly matter.
But if large numbers of clinicians access the SCR and find the data is untrustworthy, they may decide not to take the time to use it again, which could be a disaster for the SCR, though not for CfH.
To doctors who access the SCR database it doesn't matter how the database came to be unreliable. Why would they care whether the fault lay with GPs or glitches on uploads of GP-held data to the NHS Spine? If the data isn't sound, the database isn't trustworthy.
Fewer than 20 summary care records accessed every week
CfH has already been bewildered by the lack of use of the SCR. Researchers at University College London found that CfH had commissioned an internal inquiry into the poor uptake and use of the SCR, particularly in secondary care.
Fewer than 20 summary care records were being accessed within secondary care across the country, UCL researchers found; and their research is up to date - it continued until the second week of this month. It involved full cooperation with NHS Connecting for Health and out-of-hours software supplier Adastra.
Should CfH care that the SCR database is inaccurate? Its job to roll out SCRs
CfH and the Department of Health give the impression that they care less about inaccuracies in the SCR database than rolling out the scheme as quickly as possible, which, perhaps, is not surprising.
UCL researchers found that CfH is a mainly political organisation, although it is also commercial and technical. Its responsibilities are closely aligned with government policy. Its job is to deliver the SCR.
CfH, it seems, takes the approach that data quality can always be tackled later. But will inaccuracies and omissions ever be seriously confronted?
Richard Veryard says in his article:
"... the pusillanimous way out is to build a database with imperfect data, and defer the quality problem until later. That's what people have always done, and will continue to do, and the poor quality data will never ever get fixed."If the data doesn't get fixed, will the SCR ever be of any real use, even if CfH and BT manage to deliver it?
Update - 23 March 2010 (pm)
In response to this article an NHS Connecting for Health spokesperson kindly emailed the following comment:
"Having read your recent article - 'Summary Care Records: the truth or nothing like it' , I wanted to make you aware of a couple of facts.
- A heading in the article says 'Fewer than 20 Summary care records are being accessed every week'. The truth is that over 400 SCRs are being viewed every week. The total number of SCRs accessed last week across out of hours and Secondary Care was 418.
- Also you say NHS CFH takes the approach that data quality can always be tackled later.
"We have published very clear guidelines as to the data quality requirements prior to the creation of records and have always been very clear about this-
NHS Connecting for Health is right to point out that the SCR database is accessed much more often when the numbers of out-of-hours accesses are added to the secondary care accesses. CfH says that the "total number of SCRs accessed last week across out of hours and Secondary Care was 418".
When I asked for a breakdown, CfH was candid enough to say that last week there were 29 accesses in secondary care and 389 in out-of-hours.
This ties in, roughly, with research by University College London which found that fewer than 20 SCRs per week were being accessed in secondary care across England. It also ties in with the fact that CfH commissioned an internal inquiry into why the SCR is accessed so little in secondary care.
My understanding is that UCL researchers found that about 15,000 SCRs have been accessed in total, and that the access rate varies from 2 to 20% in out-of-hours and walk-in centres, but is only about 0.1% in secondary care.
That said, productive and widespread access to accurate SCRs by out-of-hours services would be an undoubted success for the NPfIT, provided of course that the hit rate is high. A hit is when a clinician accessing the SCR finds the correct patient's records on the database.
A high SCR access rate by out-of-hours services doesn't mean much if the clinicians can't find the record they are looking for. Statistics, statistics ...
What's wrong with the single source of truth - Richard Veryard
Confidential report on Summary Care Records finds database is inaccurate - IT Projects Blog
Clinical champions and the NPfIT - Open Source Medicine
Why I'm opting out of Summary Care Records - Ianvisits