NHS Connecting for Health has confirmed that patients can have their centrally-held health records deleted on the BT-run data "spine". But it's not easy.
The Summary Care Record is an upload to a central Oracle database from patient records held by GP practices. The information uploaded includes details of medications and allergies. More information will be added to the record in time.
The Summary Care Record (SCR) is a core component of the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
The SCR could be useful when a patient is taken into hospital unconscious. A doctor can see whether the patient has had a bad reaction to certain drugs.
Those who do not opt out of having an SCR will find that their medical information is uploaded automatically to the spine, though the trials of early-adopter SCR sites are in some areas only:
Bolton, Bury, Bradford, Dorset, South Birmingham and South West Essex. About 280,000 summary care records have been created but so far in Bolton and Bury only.
It is possible to delete the record even after it has been uploaded. Computer Weekly put some questions to NHS Connecting for Health on how to go about it.
a) Is it true that patients can have a Summary Care Record fully deleted if the record hasn't been used?
CfH reply: Yes, unless the record has, or should have been, used to support care.
b) How can patients get their data deleted?
CfH: They will have to ask their GP. It will be necessary to review the healthcare they have received since the Summary Care Record was created to ensure that deletion is permissible.
c) Will they have to make an [s10] Data Protection Act request which can be refused?
CfH: No. They will sign a form that their GP will forward on their behalf to the Connecting for Health team managing the process. They still have the option of s10 if their request for deletion is refused.
d) Who will patients apply to?
CfH: The GP at present - this will be evaluated as a process after the first three months to see if the numbers require a different process.
e) Will patients have to apply in person?
CfH: Yes, since it requires signature and filling in of a document to be forwarded by the GP to NHS CfH.
f) Will you have to have proof of identity to opt out?
CfH: If the GP is confident of the identity of their patient they will not require extra ID checks. If they are unsure, a process like that used by the Department of Health to check ID when people request access to records will be required.
g) What if the GP accesses the Summary Care Record, maybe to check its accuracy. Does that mean that the patient can never get their SCR deleted?
CfH: No. The reason for not deleting is that the record has, or should have been, used to support care.