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NHS IT programme review needed, says BMA

Doctors’ leaders have written to the government calling for parts of the NHS IT programme to be suspended.

The British Medical Association said it had “serious concerns” that patient medical records were being uploaded too quickly to a national database.

The break-neck speed with which this programme is being implemented is of huge concern

The multibillion pound upgrade of NHS IT came in for repeated criticism over security fears and a lack of enthusiasm for the technology among doctors.

The system aims to link more than 30,000 GPs to nearly 300 hospitals through an online appointments system (Choose and Book), a centralised medical records system for 50 million patients, e-prescriptions and faster computer network links.

In the letter to health minister Mike O’Brien, the BMA calls for further independent evaluation of pilot schemes set up to test the records system.

The letter says: “We urge you to consider, as a matter of urgency: (i) a halt to the rollout of the SCR in the areas which have not yet begun their public information programmes; (ii) inclusion of an opt-out form in the information material to patients; and (iii) the permanent withdrawal of BMA comment from the NHS Connecting for Health promotional video.”

BMA chair Hamish Meldrum said: “The break-neck speed with which this programme is being implemented is of huge concern.

The BMA has issued guidance to GPs, telling them they have a crucial role to play in advising patients about their rights and recommending opt-out forms be made available in practices.

A spokesman for the DH said: “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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