March 10th, 2010 at 14:17 UTC by Ross Anderson
Two weeks ago I posted about the Summary Care Record, a project to centralise medical records in England and Wales under the pretext that central records might be useful in emergency care. At the time, I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary asking whether it was appropriate to use taxpayers’ funds to leaflet millions of homes on a politically sensitive topic during an election campaign; I haven’t yet got a reply.
Doctors’ leaders are now alarmed. Patients are being misinformed, and opt-out is being made difficult.
The information being given to patients is false and misleading. The SCR promotional leaflet says anyone who has access to your records … must be directly involved in caring for you. However, large numbers of officials will have access. And as I already noted, the SCR isn’t as helpful in emergencies as it’s spun. Its purpose is actually different: to provide the basis for a centralised electronic patient record for everyone.
Doctors have noted that in the pilot areas, seven out of ten patients are unaware that an SCR was created for them. The patient information packs don’t contain an opt-out form; you’re supposed to phone the call centre for one. Over two hundred thousand people have downloaded an opt-out letter from www.thebigoptout.org; now the NHS says it wants doctors to ignore this and get everyone who wants to opt out to use this form instead (which GPs can’t order in bulk).The roll-out is rushed and displays typical incompetence: for example, some patients have been sent other patients’ letters. I am sure this story will run and run.