Is Dept of Health playing politics with patient records?

In areas of England where the Summary Care Record is underway, people are receiving leaflets on the benefits of the scheme. They are also offered an “opt out” of having some of their confidential details uploaded to a central database run by BT.

A roll-out of the Summary Care Record began in London in November 2009.

Writing for, Phil Booth, national coordinator, NO2ID, makes the point that the lax security culture of the NHS doesn’t suit access by nurses, doctors and administrative staff to centralised IT systems that hold highly sensitive medical information on tens of millions of people.

“NHS smartcards are being stolen, lost and abused. It was the same with passwords, and will be with any form of access control.

“The creation of centralised systems that make sensitive personal information accessible to many, and not just those directly involved in providing care, undermines the confidence patients can have – must have – if they are to disclose things about themselves for their own treatment and well-being, and for the wider public health…”

He also makes the point that many people may throw away their officialleaflets about the Summary Care Record, thinking them to be junk mail.If they take no action, the NHS and Connecting for Health will assumethat they have given “implied” consent for their medical details willbe uploaded to a central database.

Booth says:

“Connectingfor Health is using what are effectively inertia selling techniques,making those who might wish to opt out jump through unnecessary hoops.Which is why, with pre-election ‘purdah’ almost upon us, itsmulti-million pound inducement to ramp up the mass roll-out of SCR isall the more extraordinary.

“Surely the Department is notplaying politics with patients’ records, in the face of Conservativeand Liberal Democrat proposals for more localised or decentralisedapproaches?”


NHS Connecting for Health, which runs the NPfIT, warns patients of the potentially dire consequences of opting out. On the official opting out form, CfH says:

“The information in your SCR could save you and the NHS time, but could also one day be lifesaving.”

Itcontinues: “It would be misleading to pretend that there are no risksto information held in the SCR. But it is also misleading to suggestthat not having such a record is risk free…

“The NHS has significant problems now with lost records and test results and treatment and
prescribing errors.

With a SCR doctors and nurses would know at a crucial time:

• what medications you are taking, especially if they are many and complex

• what medications have not agreed with you in the past

• whether you have any allergies

• that new medications they prescribe may react badly with things you are already taking

• that you have a condition that means you shouldn’t have certain medicines

In addition, you would have the benefit of:

• 24-hour access to your own SCR to check it for errors and to see what those
who are treating you have recorded if you choose to view it through HealthSpace

• peace of mind that wherever in England you need care, anyone treating you will have
essential information even if you were distressed


Summary Care Record launched in London – November 2009 – NHS London website

Form for opting out of Summary Care Record, which contains warnings of opting out – NHS Connecting for Health website

Teesside primary care trusts introduce summary care records – February 2010

Phil Booth’s article –

NHS Care Records Service – NHS website

Summary care Record set for mass rollout – Pulse (Nov 09)