June 17th, 2010 at 07:33 UTC by Ross Anderson
Today sees the publication of a report by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh into the Summary Care Record (SCR). There is a summary of the report in the BMJ, which also has two discussion pieces: one by Sir Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust arguing that the future of medical records is digital, and one by me which agrees but argues that as the SCR is unsafe and unlawful, it should be abandoned.
Two weeks ago I reported here how the coalition government planned to retain the SCR, despite pre-election promises from both its constituent parties to do away with it. These promises followed our Database State report last year which demonstrated that many of the central systems built by the previous government contravened human-rights law. The government’s U-turn provoked considerable anger among doctors. NGOs and backbench MPs, prompting health minister Simon Burns to promise a review.
Professor Greenhalgh’s review, which was in fact completed before the election, finds that the SCR fails to do what it was supposed to. It isn’t used much; it doesn’t fit in with how doctors and nurses actually work; it doesn’t make consultations shorter but longer; and the project was extremely badly managed. In fact, her report should be read by all serious students of software engineering; like the London Ambulance Service report almost twenty years ago, this document sets out in great detail what not to do.