Summary Care Record “unreliable”

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.

The Devil’s in the Detail – UCL report on the Summary Care Record.

Summary Care Record – where does the truth lie?

One response to “Summary Care Record “unreliable”

  1. No surprises there then
    Any message based system can only ever hold and present the last message it was sent, by definition therefore, the SCR can not be a guaranteed up to date version of the truth about a patient. This bares no relation to the accuracy of the record i.e. is it correct? Only its temporal validity.

    What clinician who is directly responsible for their actions in respect of a patient is going to trust the SCR? What patient would want their attending physician relying on the SCR? It can never work in its current form for these reasons, any clinician worth their salt could not in good faith ‘do no harm’

    SCR needs to be real time. A central repository of data in respect of a patient which points to all the systems where data is held about said patient. Data is requested and delivered in real time with the warning that this may not be all the data about said patient only what SCR has been told exists. This becomes a electronic version of requesting physical notes when you move GP’s or are admitted to hospital.

    From my perspective these issues are born from the design and are self evident. Pity those who commissioned SCR where blind to the light.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.