Government letter on review of NHS IT

Below is the letter from NPfIT minister Simon Burns to Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of the BMA’s Council, and Dr Laurence Buckman, Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee. The letter, which is dated 10 June 2010, is published by Pulse.

The letter refers to a review that’s being carried out on NHS IT, including the summary care records scheme.

A cynic would say that the “listening” letter offers a review of the Summary Care Records scheme, which pre-empts any dispute with the BMA, while changing nothing: the upload of patient data from GP systems to the central Summary Care Records database continues.

The letter is interesting though, because it suggests in the penultimate sentence that doctors should have IT adapted for their needs, not imposed on them by Whitehall. Information systems in the NHS should “enable care focused on patients’ wishes, delivered by clinicians who are empowered to use their professional skills to meet their needs”, says Burns.

Simon Burns’ letter:

From Simon Burns MP Minister of State forHealth

Dear Drs Meldrum and Buckman

We have noted that theBMA is discussing the issue of the Summary Care Record in the LMCafternoon session on Friday and will  be interested to learn the outcomeof these discussions. To help inform your thinking, we thought it wouldbe useful if you the Government position on the issue.

Broadly,our view is that we see a need for both patients and clinicians to beable to access patient records in an electronic form. This is part ofour thinking about making information transparent and available, whileinvolving patients in decisions about their healthcare.

Inrelation to the Summary Care Record, we believe the current processesthat are in place need reviewing to ensure that both the informationthat patients receive, and the process by which they opt out, are asclear and simple as possible.

In addition, should a patientchoose to opt-out they must be able do so as early in the process asfeasible. Forefront in our minds is the need to ensure security of datacontained in the record.

Also, we see a need to review thecontent of the record and to agree with key stakeholders what should beadded to the record and over what timescale. We would welcome adiscussion with you on the process for achieving this.

UsingSummary Care Records effectively depends on patients and doctors feelingan ownership of these records, rather than them [sic] being perceivedas something imposed by a central arm of government.

Reviewinghow best to achieve this will be part of the wider project of reviewinghow information technology can best be leveraged within the healthservice.

This work will help to ensure that information systemsin the NHS enable care focused on patients’ wishes, delivered byclinicians who are empowered to use their professional skills to meettheir needs.

We look forward to your feedback from the conferencethis week.

Simon Burns MP  


Burns’letter – Pulse

Burnssays NHS tech will be reviewed – E-Health Insider 

Governmentoverturns an original NPfIT objective – IT Projects Blog

TheSCR scandal – Sant media