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BMA call to halt e-record rollout

Until a review has taken place

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An open letter to government from the doctors' association calls for a halt to the roll out of summary care records until a review has taken place.

The British Medical Association's (BMA) chair, Dr Hamish Meldrum, has called for a halt to further implementation of the NHS summary care record, beyond six early adopter sites, until an independent review has been completed.

In a letter to Ben Bradshaw, the minister responsible for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), Dr Meldrum says that at a recent BMA meeting, doctors from primary and secondary care expressed their frustration with the programme and want a public enquiry to address problems.

"I would like to take this opportunity to express the BMA's hopes, to raise our concerns and to suggest recommendations as to what the programme should deliver to support patient care. I hope this will help inform debate at this crucial time for redefining the future of the programme," Dr Meldrum said.

His letter, dated August 2007, says that a series of "essential steps" must be taken to ensure successful delivery of the national programme.

They include seeking legal opinion on issues raised during health select committee hearings about the legality of the summary care records and the Data Protection Act, in relation to EU directives.

The association wants Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for NPfIT, to work with it and patient organisations on a public information campaign. It also calls on the agency to urgently address the continuing problems with the electronic booking system, Choose and Book.

The letter makes a series of recommendations on issues in secondary care, including a call for a choice of IT systems for hospitals and the establishment of a national implementation checklist to be completed before the implementation of any patient administration system.

A BMA paper accompanying Dr Meldrum's letter says that one of the association's prime concerns about NPfIT relates to security and confidentiality controls.

Doctors are responsible for ensuring the confidentiality of the information provided to them by patients. But the paper says that, despite Connecting for Health informing them that security arrangements meet the highest standards, doctors remain cautious. The BMA says that doctors want to experience the system themselves and address any concerns patients may have, rather than pass on assurances provided by the government.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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