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Time to kill the zombie health records

No2ID says stop SCRs now

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When the country is being asked to get ready for cutbacks, the last thing you’d expect is for civil servants to be squandering millions of pounds of public money now - and racking up huge bills for the future - or perhaps you would.

That is the allegation made by Phil Booth, national coordinator of No2ID. He claims that in the weeks up to and since the election, NHS Connecting for Health has ignored a national agreement with GPs and Trusts to go slow on populating the Summary Care Record system, and has organised a nationwide blitz of 30 million mailshots, representing a spend of £7.5m in the last few months alone.

This, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, is a massive calumny: there have been absolutely no changes announced to the SCR system and no changes made, either structurally or in terms of the rate of activity.  Besides, 30 million mailings have absolutely not been sent out to patients - it was only 29.7 million.

Various bodies, including No2ID and Power2010, have been keeping an eye on what CfH is up to.  The process involves an invitation to patients to have their records uploaded to the SCR system, with an opt-out for those who prefer not to be added to the shiny new NHS database.

According to Phil Booth, there is evidence of a number of surgeries uploading records in the last few weeks.  Nine Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are also in the process of doing so.  The picture is patchy, as in some areas it is individual surgeries carrying out the upload, while in others whole PCTs are at it.

Activity on this front has been identified in places including Hastings and South-West Essex.  The East Riding of Yorkshire PCT sent information packs out to patients the day before the general election.

Booth slammed this activity as utterly unprincipled and motivated by self-interest.  He said:

The fact that Connecting for Health sent out a massive mailshot, when it was known that both opposition parties had the scheme targeted at least for review, is wholly irresponsible.

This last desperate push appears to be motivated NOT by care for health for patients, but rather by civil service determined to protect their project.

No2ID are calling for an absolute halt and a full inquiry now.

A spokeswoman at CfH explained to us how the opt-out works.   Patients have 12 weeks to do so: then their record will be uploaded to the system anyway.  Thereafter, so long as the record has not been used, the patient can still request that it be deleted – but the moment it has been used by a clinician, it cannot be deleted.

So once an SCR has been loaded and used, it is there for all time. That means that the SCR upload represents a massive potential legacy system.  It leaves future governments to pick up the tab.

Given the possibility that this project will be modified – or cancelled altogether - no responsible project manager would continue the upload without a renewed mandate from government to do so.

Yet, on the face of it, this is precisely what CfH is doing.  We leave readers to draw their own conclusions. ®

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