Summary Care Records - too big to fail?

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"Given that [the Summary Care Record scheme] is not particularly effective at improving health care, the project has to be seen to be a success in some other way."

Emma Byrne is one of the authors of a confidential draft report on the Summary Care Records scheme.  She'd worked on the report with a team from University College London.

The latest report of her team was completed in March 2010 but hasn't been published, perhaps because some of its findings were not greeted warmly by the Department of Health. The Department and NHS Connecting for Health commissioned the SCR report from University College London.

Now Byrne has written an article for the Open Rights Group on NHS IT, the NPfIT and particularly the SCR scheme.  She is on the ORG's board.

She says in the article:

" ... The problems are made far worse by the way NPfIT runs its key projects. When a project simultaneously manages to be 'not much use' and  'too big to fail'  you have a recipe for perverse incentives and disastrous privacy consequences. The biggest project in the NHS, the Summary Care Record (SCR), is a clear example of this.

"The political pressure for the SCR to be seen as a success has always been immense: it was announced in 1997 as a personally favoured project of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. But this was never a vision shared by the doctors and nurses working in the NHS.

"When we studied the way health care professionals felt about the SCR in 2008, most of them said that they didn't really see the point of it: if you have an accident they would much rather get the information from you directly, either by examining you or by talking to you or your carer.

"Given that it's not particularly effective at improving health care, the project has to be seen to be a success in some other way.

"As a result, the reported "benefits" of the SCR consist of things like "the growth in number of patient records on the system," and "the number of times that SCRs have been accessed..."


About Emma Byrne:

She holds a PhD in Computer Science from University College London. She is a researcher at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Population and Health Sciences, evaluating structured and coded data in patient records.

She has been a consulting researcher at the school of Primary Care and Population Sciences at UCL as part of the independent evaluation of the NHS Summary Care Record IT project.


Emma Byrne's article - Open Rights Group

Emma Byrne - biography 

1 Comment

  • The best record is the patient. If each patient carried a list of medications, allergies, and doses, that will provide 95% of what is ever needed for an emergency or urgent care. The rest comes from talking to the patient, which is what the patients want anyway, eh? When the SCR or terminal becomes the patient, the real patient lies suffering. SCR is big and has failed. Walk away for this dead end street.

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