NHS removes key data from Summary Care Record

Opt-out will also be made easier

The NHS will stick with the controversial Summary Care Record, but with some significant concessions to public concerns, the Department of Health has confirmed to Computerworld UK.

The news comes as the Department of Health published two government-commissioned reviews, which found there was value in the SCR but that significant limitations needed to be made to the data placed on it. They also concluded it needed to be much easier for patients to opt out.

Under the new plans, patients will have the power of veto over any information beyond emergency data that is added to the SCR over time. The record will now only contain patients' demographic details, medications, allergies and adverse reactions. A number of doctors had long complained that there had been no clear limits to what would be added, which could potentially have resulted in long and complex files full of data patients were unaware of.

In order to make opting out easier, the NHS will include an opt out form and pre-paid envelope in all information letters sent to patients. But newer packs will not be sent to patients who have already received the letters, even though serious concerns were raised that previous letters were not understood by patients and did not contain opt-out forms. There will be "awareness" campaigns in those areas.

Patients are expected to be given online access to the SCR, and to gain some management rights over the record. But the Department of Health did not give more details on those plans, and a spokesperson said it was awaiting an upcoming review on IT and data across the NHS.

One of the two reviews released today, by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, found that doctors need "essential" medical information in emergency settings. Another, by Joan Saddler, said the letter needs simplifying and an opt out form needs to be included.

The SCR has been highly controversial since its inception. But Health Minister, Simon Burns, said he hoped the new announcement "draws a line under the controversies that the SCR has generated up to now".

Three million care records have been created so far.

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