Summary Care Records - too big to fail?

“Given that [the Summary Care Record scheme] is not particularly effective at improving health care, the project has to be seen to be a success in some other way.”

Emma Byrne is one of the authors of a confidential draft report on the Summary Care Records scheme.  She’d worked on the report with a team from University College London.

The latest report of her team was completed in March 2010 but hasn’t been published, perhaps because some of its findings were not greeted warmly by the Department of Health. The Department and NHS Connecting for Health commissioned the SCR report from University College London.

Now Byrne has written an article for the Open Rights Group on NHS IT, the NPfIT and particularly the SCR scheme.  She is on the ORG’s board.

She says in the article:

” … The problems are made far worseby the way NPfIT runs its key projects. When a project simultaneouslymanages to be ‘not much use’ and  ‘too big to fail’  you have a recipefor perverse incentives and disastrous privacy consequences. The biggestproject in the NHS, the Summary Care Record (SCR), is a clear example ofthis.

“The political pressure for the SCR to be seen as asuccess has always been immense: it was announced in 1997 as apersonally favoured project of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Butthis was never a vision shared by the doctors and nurses working in theNHS.

“When we studied the way health care professionals feltabout the SCR in 2008, most of them said that they didn’t really see thepoint of it: if you have an accident they would much rather get theinformation from you directly, either by examining you or by talking toyou or your carer.

“Given that it’s not particularly effective atimproving health care, the project has to be seen to be a success insome other way.

“As a result, the reported “benefits” of the SCRconsist of things like “the growth in number of patient records on thesystem,” and “the number of times that SCRs have been accessed…”


AboutEmma Byrne:

She holds a PhD in Computer Science from UniversityCollege London. She is a researcher at the University of EdinburghCentre for Population and Health Sciences, evaluating structured andcoded data in patient records.

She has been a consultingresearcher at the school of Primary Care and Population Sciences at UCLas part of the independent evaluation of the NHS Summary Care Record ITproject.


EmmaByrne’s article – Open Rights Group

Emma Byrne – biography