BMA and CfH argue it out over NPfIT Summary Care Records

        Would Summary Care Records have saved the life of Penny Campbell?

[Comments 5 and 6 after this article correct some of the impressions I have given. The SCR is equipped to take GP notes]  

It’s rare for the British Medical Association and NHS Connecting for Health to debate the Summary Care Records. Their representatives did so on BBC R4’s Today programme this morning.

A transcript is below.

Dr Hamish Meldrum of the BMA, and Dr Simon Eccles of NHS Connecting for Health, made their points with impressive force.

The strongest single point was made at the end by Simon Eccles who suggested that the death of journalist Penny Campbell could have been avoided had a succession of out-of-hours doctors been able to see the notes of each of the doctors who had seen her before.

But would the Summary Care Records really have made any difference? Eccles’s point supposes:

– that each out-of-hour doctor who saw Campbell would have had real-time access to the SCR while they were with the patient, as opposed to looking at it before or the next day

– that each doctor would have recorded on the SCR what actions they had taken in real-time, or within an hour of seeing the patient

– that each doctor could have recorded their thoughts on what was wrong with Campbell. The SCR is not yet for notes – it’s a record of medications, adverse drug reactions and allergies.

The death of Penny Campbell was characterized by a series of doctors not noticing, acting on, or understanding, a trajectory of different and complex symptoms.

Each of her calls to doctors was treated as an individual “episode”, with Campbell having to repeatedly recount her symptoms. The SCR is not yet geared for recording symptoms.

The SCR could have helped – but her records would have needed real-time updating of notes by every doctor she saw.

And this is not happening under the national SCR scheme that’s now being rolled out. 


This is what Hamish Meldrum and Simon Eccles said on the Today programme this morning.
Today’spresenter Evan Davis asked the questions. He asked Eccles three timeshow many people would have access to his records.  

Meldrum:”We are worried at the speed at which this particular aspect of theprogramme is being rolled out. As everybody knows there have beendelays and lots of cost over-runs in the whole NHS IT system. Butthere’s a difference between the time it has taken to develop andevaluate the system and actually rushing out what we still feel is animperfect  system.

Evan Davis: Theidea is that patients should have the right to opt out if they don’twant their record put onto the central database. And you’re sayingpeople are not aware of that right?

Meldrum: “Certainly thefeedback we’re getting from doctors on the ground is that neither theynor their patients feel that they have been fully informed about whattheir choices are. …If they do wish to opt out they don’t find theprocess for doing that a very easy one.”

Evan Davis [to Simon Eccles]: How many people will have access to my summary care record? How many people will be able to, if they want to, go and look at it?

Eccles:”In order to get access to the SCR, any healthcare professional needs achip-and-pin access smartcard, and needs a relationship with you. Youneed to be their patient. So if you come into my A&E dept I can look at your record.”

Davis: Butphysically how many people would be able to look at my record? How doesthe system know that they have a relationship with me? What’s thesecurity?

Eccles: “We are trying to make the system muchmore secure than current paper records. At the moment there is no audittrail of who has looked at your records. What we are saying is we wanta full audit trail. So if somebody chooses to access your record thenthey have to leave their fingerprints.”

Davis: But how manypeople will be able to go and look at that record? At a hospital inNewcastle somebody could find my record and actually look at itcouldn’t they?

Eccles: “Absolutely right. An A&E consultant in Newcastle could find out what medicines you are on.”

Davis:  So basically thousands and thousands of people would be able to look at an individual record?

Eccles: (in a near whisper) “As they can now.”

Davis: Atthe moment, someone in Newcastle is going to struggle to look at mypaper record aren’t they, because they are quite a long way away fromit and going into it and shuffling around in the files at my local GPis going to be a bit of a hassle for them?

Eccles: “Theconcerns we get – I am an A&E consultant when I am not here doingthis – is from people who complain not about too much information butabout the fact that we don’t join it together. They are astonished thatI have to ask them all the medicines they are on, and doses, andparticularly preparation, because we haven’t got a list of themedicines they are taking from their GPs.”

Davis [to Meldrum]: Can’twe trust doctors not to peek at the data – that we shouldn’t let themaccess to the data because they’ll misuse it if we let them?

Meldrum:”We are not against the SCR per se. We believe in the long run it willhave benefits for patients. But it will only work if doctors andpatients have confidence in the system.

“And there are patients who have strong views about their details being shared and will not want them shared.

“Weare saying that we must make sure that these views are respected, thatpatients are making fully-informed decisions, and that they have theopportunity, when they don’t want the potential for that record-sharingto happen, for them to do so.

“It’s a matter of the speed andthe scale of the roll-out at the moment. The information we feel is notgetting to patients so that they can make that fully-informed decision.

Davis: Whatdo you say to the point, though, that we do need, even in the caseswhere patients may not want their data shared, we have to have some wayin a doctor, say in A&E in a remote city, can get access to theirdata?

Meldrum:  “We have coped up until now without anelectronic record. We feel that the electronic record will help thisprocess. It’s not impossible to treat patients without these data.

“Weare stressing that this system will only work with the confidence ofpatients and with the confidence of doctors. We are not against thesystem per se. What we are against is the processes being used foraccelerating this roll-out which we are getting feedback is not beingproperly done.”

Eccles: “There have been high-profile deaths,including Penny Campbell’s, a journalist’s wife, who died because fivedifferent GPs saw her and none of them knew what each other had done.

“Itis incredibly important, that where people want it, they are able toshare information that will save their lives because the clinicianswill know what is wrong with them. That is common sense.” 


The death of Penny Campbell by her partner of 19 years – The Independent

Is roll-out of Summary Care Records speeding up while doctors urge caution? – IT Projects Blog

Is the NHS rushing out an imperfect system? – BBC Today programme

BMA branch withdraws support for fast roll-out of Summary Care Records –

NHS spine can tap easily into GP records – U.K. News Room

Is Summary Care Records scheme feasible? – IT Projects Blog

When is an optional opt-out not an option? – Big Brother Watch

Doctors call for database rollout suspension – Emergency Services News