Patients don't have enough information about electronic patient records and it is too hard for them to opt-out if they want to, the BMA said today.
Following limited local piloting, patients' summary care records are now going to be uploaded to a central database across England. Five Strategic Health Authorities recently announced they were speeding up their plans. Anyone who does not want to have a Summary Care Record (SCR) has to opt out by informing their GP or by completing a form either downloaded from the internet or requested through an '0845' national call centre.
Dr Grant Ingrams, Chair of the GP IT Committee, said:
"The Summary Care Record roll-out is now happening too hastily. While we believe it has the potential to improve both the quality and safety of patient care, we are concerned at the speed because it means patients are very unlikely to be aware of what they are automatically being enrolled into."
John May from the BMA's Patient Liaison Group said:
"An independent evaluation of the regional pilots found that seven in ten patients in those areas weren't aware of the Summary Care Record, which meant they also weren't aware that their details would go on to a national database. There needs to be a higher profile national information campaign to ensure everyone can make an informed choice about whether or not they want to be included.
"We also think it is important that opting-out is made easier. At the moment there's no opt-out form in the patient information packs being sent to patients across the country. They either have to take the time out of their day to go and see their GP, or phone a call centre, or download a form from the internet and post it in."
Dr Ingrams added:
"We don't believe the national roll-out needs to be or should be done in a hurry. We would like to see it rolled out carefully area by area in a properly supported and evaluated fashion. This should ensure it improves patient care in the way it is intended to, whilst also protecting patient confidentiality."