Coalition to leave Summary Care Records little changed?

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In a Parliamentary answer yesterday, the new minister for NHS IT, Conservative MP Simon Burns, appears to confirm that there will be little change to the Summary Care Records scheme.

His answer, which will have been written by the Department of Health and given to him for sign-off, is largely unchanged on the answers given by Labour ministers when they were questioned by Tories on the Summary Care Records scheme. Burns says the upload of medical information will continue.

But his statement is subtly different to Labour's. He says that the uploads should take place when GP practices and primary care trusts agree that patients have been "properly enabled to opt out should they wish".

Burns also said that GP practices and PCTs need to be "satisfied that data are of an appropriate quality for sharing." It's unclear how patient data, before it is uploaded, will be checked for accuracy or who will be responsible if it isn't accurate.
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The continuance of the scheme - it's not being stopped for a review - suggests that officials at Richmond House in Whitehall, the headquarters of the Department of Health, have already convinced Burns that the Summary Care Records scheme is growing and flourishing.

Those officials have probably shown Burns statistics on the increasing number of uploads of GP-held summary records to the NHS data spine.

But though the scheme is a good idea, particularly for out-of-hours doctors, its critics, particularly GPs, say that it has not been thought through.

NHS Connecting for Health has already commissioned a study into the low use of the summary care records database by doctors in secondary care. 

Burns' reply yesterday was to Conservative MP Michael Fallon, who chaired the Treasury sub-committee before the general election.

Fallon asked Burns whether he would make it his policy to end the uploading of medical data to the Summary Care Record. Fallon is the son of a surgeon.

This was the question asked by Michael Fallon and the reply:

                                       Medical Records: Databases

Michael Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to end uploading of medical data to the Summary Care Record; and if he will make a statement.

Burns:

"Uploading of information to the summary care record will continue to take place, where the relevant general practitioner (GP) practices and primary care trusts (PCTs) agree that patients have been adequately informed about the process, and properly enabled to opt out should they wish, and where GP practices and PCTs are satisfied that data are of an appropriate quality for sharing."

Comment:

Burns' caveats are unlikely to have much effect on the rate of uploads of records to the spine. With some exceptions Primary Care Trusts are keen to be seen to be participating in the uploads, and though quite a few GP practices aren't enthusiastic they're in the minority.

It looks like the Summary Care Record is here to stay, whether it's much used by the NHS or not.

It's odd that IT-based schemes in government are measured not on the benefits but how much technology has been deployed and how widely. That's one of the unfortunate differences between the public and private sectors when it comes to IT-based projects and programmes.

Links:

Summary Care Records to continue - Publicservice.co.uk

Summary Care Records - too big to fail? - IT Projects Blog

GPs are boycotting summary care records - Big Brother Watch

One in six GPs snub summary care records  - Henry Porter  

Confidential report on summary care records finds database is inaccurate - IT Projects Blog

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