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The British Medical Association is calling on the Department of Health to suspend the roll-out of summary care records.

The BMA said the project was being accelerated and it had serious concerns that patients are not getting the information they needed to decide whether or not they want their medical records put onto a centralised system. The doctors group wants opt-out forms to be included in the information packs which are currently being sent out to patients.

The group is writing to health minister Mike O'Brien to ask him to stop the letters going out until they have an opt-out form included.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the council at the BMA, said:

The break-neck speed with which this programme is being implemented is of huge concern. Patients’ right to opt out is crucial, and it is extremely alarming that records are apparently being created without them being aware of it. If the process continues to be rushed, not only will the rights of patients be damaged, but the limited confidence of the public and the medical profession in NHS IT will be further eroded.

The BMA is advising doctors to make sure they have opt-out forms available in surgeries and that they have a crucial role in advising patients about their rights.

The Department of Health has yet to respond to this letter (response below) but last time it was asked about this issue it said there had been very few complaints about the project, even though about six million letters had been sent out. Opt-out requests so far have been less than one per cent of that total and over a million patients have already had their records uploaded.

A Department of Health spokesman said:

“The Summary Care Record is an important patient safety initiative widely supported by clinicians, in particular those working in out of hours and emergency settings, and by the patients they treat. It will make accurate information about medications, allergies and important medical conditions available to clinicians treating patients in circumstances when they may be too unwell to provide this themselves. Patient groups representing those with long-term conditions have also championed their creation.”

“We are surprised to have a five year time frame criticised as a ‘break-neck pace’ when the programme had been previously criticised for its slow uptake. We absolutely support the right of any patient to opt out of having a summary care record and have provided various options to make this process straightforward.” ®

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