Feeds

Computer boffin on NHS Spine: Get out while you can

Summary Care Record summarily slammed

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A leading computer scientist has sounded a warning over an NHS data collection plan, urging patients to opt out.

The Summary Care Record (SCR) scheme will make outlines of medical records available to hundreds of thousands of NHS staff in England. The idea is to provide doctors and nurses in England with easier access to information on patients registered with other doctors without having to call or fax their main medics.

But the approach is fraught with privacy pitfalls while offering questionable clinical benefits, according to Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University.

Anderson notes that a similar system was abused when it was introduced in Scotland by a rogue medic who snooped into the medical records of health records of prime minister Gordon Brown and SNP leader Alex Salmond. The doctor concerned was spared prosecution for hacking because of his own medical problems.

The SCR scheme is billed as a means for medical staff to have easier access to information on whether patients are allergic to drugs such as penicillin, but even this limited ambition is liable to fail. "It won’t be available abroad (or even in Scotland) so if you are allergic to penicillin you’d better keep on wearing your dogtag," Anderson argues.

The roll-out of summary care record (“The Spine”) in London has been accompanied by efforts to educate patients about opting out of the scheme via posters and leaflets in general surgeries. By default, patients will be enrolled in the scheme.

Anderson welcomed this action by doctors' organisations while criticising Labour plans to talk up the supposed benefits of the scheme, which he views as one move towards the bigger threat of a database state. Both the main opposition parties, Conservatives and LibDem, oppose the scheme.

A Department of Health spokesman sent us the following:

Patients have at least twelve weeks to decide if they want to have a Summary Care Record and, together with GPs, have had several sources of information on how the records work and the opt-out process made available to them. All patients have the right to opt out and they can also change their minds at any time.

To date, over six million patients have been sent standardised public information packs about Summary Care Records through regional Public Information Programmes. GPs can also direct patients with further enquiries to the dedicated NHS Care Records Service Information Line and the NHS Care Records Service website http://www.nhscarerecords.nhs.uk/Standardised information packs for GPs are also available on the Connecting for Health website.

The patient and GP packs are being supplemented with local awareness and engagement activities such as drop-in sessions and local media coverage. Emerging benefits in Out of Hours and End of Life care in early adopter areas are increasingly winning the support of clinicians.

As regards timescales, this will largely depend on PCT readiness. Roll-out of Summary Care Records is gathering pace. As of 19th February 2010, 1,190,418 Summary Care Records had been created and over 6,000,000 patients had been written to as part of a Public Information Programme.

The opt-out rate remains consistently below 1%.

Approximately 80% of GP practices now have a compliant SCR GP system. The NHS Informatics Planning 2010/11 states that PCTs, as commissioners, should agree a timeline with their SHA for the creation of SCRs at all SCR-compliant GP practices in the financial year 2010/11. It should be stressed that Summary Care Records will not be created immediately after the 12-week period in which patients have to make a decision, but over the timeframe outlined above.

®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, watchdog claims
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.