By Tony Collins
The central Summary Care Record database (which is run by BT under its NPfIT Spine contract) is proving unreliable, Pulse reports today.
The SCR is supposed to give clinicians , particularly those working in A&E and for out-of-hours services, a view of the patient’s most recent medicines, allergies and bad reactions to drugs.
But one criticism of the scheme has always been the lack of any guarantee that the data in the SCR could be accurate or complete.
Researchers at University College, London, led by Trisha Greenhalgh, found in a confidential draft report that doctors were unable to trust the SCR database as a single source of truth. They found in some cases that some information on the database was wrong, and what should have been included in the patient’s record was omitted for unknown reasons.
Now Pulse reports that some GP-derived information is going on the patient’s SCR, and some isn’t. One problem is that GPs must use smartcards to update the SCR database and some don’t use them.
The General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association has raised the matter with the Department of Health.
Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire local medical committee told Pulse that smartcards were not often used in Buckinghamshire, because they slowed down the practice IT system for normal use, with one practice reporting that it had interfered with allergy data.
Dr Roblin said that this made the record ‘unreliable’ and said that although most GPs would prefer to take their own history rather than relying on the SCR, and would double check all details with the patient, other health professionals may not realise the record is incomplete, and may not check the data.
He said “Drugs lists might not be complete and recent allergies may not be uploaded. The Summary Care Record is unreliable. Don’t rely on it. It’s an expensive initiative without a lot of benefit.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC lead negotiator on IT, said the current arrangements undermine the benefit and usefulness of summary care records.
“The GPC have suggested workaround systems for practices who do not use smartcards, such as a ‘mop-up’ session where all new data is uploaded on to the national spine once a day. However, the DH decided against this option.”
There may be professionals who believe the SCR database represents an up to date record said Nagpaul.
A DH spokesperson said that most practices which have created Summary Care Records use smartcards.
[Whether justified or not the SCR scheme is believed to have cost about £250m so far.]
In 2010 Professor Ross Anderson at Cambridge University argued that the SCR could do more harm than good.
Richard Veryard also wrote on the unreliability of the SCR in 2010.