Summary Care Record opt out - some challenges

Health officials want to dissuade patients from opting out of the Summary Care Record, but are unsure how to go about it.

If too many patients opt out of a national database of summary health records clinicians may not trouble themselves to use it – and some may not trust it anyway. The summary care record is one of the main beams of the National Programme for IT [NPfIT].

NHS Connecting for Health wants fewer than 0.5% of patients to opt out. The signs so far are that between 0.5 to 1% will opt out. A 0.5% opt out would amount to 250,000 people – though it would not be this high in practice, in part because patients will find it time-consuming to opt out.

Some of the problems facing officials at Lincolnshire PCT – NHS Lincolnshire – as they try to introduce the Summary Care Record are evident clear from my exchange of questions and answers with the trust this week.

The exchange came after an article in Pulse:

Is the PCT trying to establish any details, or lists, or names or those opting out of the Summary Care Record?

“NHS Lincolnshire is managing the letter production and distribution on behalf of practices [a distribution of letters to explain to patients the benefits of the summary care record and the right to opt out] .One approach being considered was for the practice to advise which patients should not be sent a letter because they have opted out. This has now been revised and practices are writing themselves to patients who have opted out. No names of opted out patients are therefore being passed on to NHS Lincolnshire.

Is the PCT using the letterheads of GP practices to contact patients who have opted out?

At one stage during planning the practice concerned (not the PCT) felt they might wish to have their own logo on the letters to patients. This was in the minutes of the planning meeting which is where Pulse have obtained this view.  This approach was revised and the practice are now writing to opted out patients themselves. The PCT is writing to patients using its own logo.

Is it the PCT’s intention to warn patients who have opted out that their health or safety could be at risk if they opt out?

The letter to opting out patients is not yet finalised. However we will definitely not be using the words “your health or safety could be at risk”. It is important to present a balanced view of the benefits of the summary care record. We do feel that in some circumstances the information conveyed by the SCR could be important. We can release the transcript of the opted out and invitation letter when they are finalised.

Does the PCT accept the view of some in the medical professions that opting out of the SCR does not put a patient’s health or safety at risk?

Our view is that the information in the SCR can improve patient management and reduce risk. The degree of risk and benefit will of course depend on the patient’s circumstances.


PCT pursues patients who opt out of Summary Care Record – Pulse

SCR rollout begins – E-Health Insider

Is Summary Care Record feasible? – IT Projects blog