Last week two little envelopes plopped through the letter-box - one for me, one for husband. They contained an information leaflet and an opt out form re the NHS Summary Care Record (SCR).
SCRs are computerised data of patient information containing demographic details, medications, allergies and adverse reactions; information that could make all the difference when a patient needs emergency or unplanned care. Well, that's what the blurb says!
The SCR has a chequered history, concerns being aired with regards to those who might gain access (porters, Mrs Miggins the domestic, etc) and thus the security of personal computerised data and also the pace at which it was being rolled out.
Those who like IT (and the then government) were hell bent on reaching critical mass before end of March, 2010; the government to push its baby through prior to the election and the five Strategic Health Authorities taking part in the hurried roll out becoming eligible to take advantage of central funding.
This haste despite researchers at UCL finding inaccuracies in stored data, i.e, failure to indicate allergies or adverse reactions to drugs or indicating that patients did have allergies or adverse reactions when they didn't or listing 'current' medications that were no longer taken. The researchers found that no patients suffered harm - but purely because doctors didn't trust the information and double checked it.
There was no evidence that records led to safer care although access to the database could reduce rare medication errors. No clear evidence either that consultations were quicker and in some cases the use of the SCR made consultations longer.
The BMA expressed concerns about the speed of the roll out meaning that patients were not adequately informed about electronic records. An independent evaluation of the early adopter areas found that seven out of ten patients were not aware of the SCR and therefore did not realise that they had given consent (by not opting out) and that their interesting little medical details were available for all and sundry to access.
Come the coalition government the whole SCR kerfuffle came under review, things looking good as in 2009 the Conservative party pledged to 'dismantle central NHS IT infrastructure' replacing it with local systems and Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb called last year to an end to the 'obsession with massive central databases.'
But politicians aren't well known for keeping their word and honouring pledges, are they? So the SCR has been given the green light again and it is go baby go! The mass mail out has begun!
This time around it will be clearer that you can opt out. I suggest that you do - for do not believe what you read in the pretty little leaflet. I don't. During my research today, I was lucky enough to find Summary Care Record Info - an eye opener by the excellent Dr Neil Bhatia - read and learn! Home in on how your 'core' details will be added to! Home in on everything!
Worried about security, will Mrs Miggins (the domestic) be reading your private data and selling the sordid details to The Sun? Possibly yes! Read this interesting article in Pulse which informs that celebrities (the most important people in the universe), politicians and other patients with 'sensitive' information will be excluded from SCRs. Wonder why that might be?
While you're at it - you might as well read this! Gives you a hint of who might be able to access your details in the future! 'I don't have specific reservations about giving pharmacists access to SCRs - it could have benefits in the future - but I'd actually be more interested in getting the basics right first.'
Link: The Witch Doctor "If you have nothing to hide..."