The clinical director of the NHS’s summary care record service has admitted that fewer than six out of 10 the GP practices in Bolton, where the records are being piloted, are ready and willing to be involved.
The first electronic summary records have now been uploaded to the national data “spine” – a key element of the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) – by eight GP practices out of the 57 in Bolton. The town is one of six pilot areas for the summary records, although only four have yet been announced.
But a survey of Bolton GPs by the town’s Local Medical Committee, which represents doctors, found that more than two-thirds of those who expressed an opinion were against going ahead with the summary care record programme.
The 169 GPs were asked if they were “in favour of proceeding with the summary care record”. Of the 98 who replied, 67 said they did not want to proceed, with only 20 in favour.
Gillian Braunold, who was appointed to the new clinical director post at NHS IT agency Connecting for Health earlier this month, said the LMC figures needed to be taken “in context” and the survey “didn’t have the highest response rate”. She added: “You’ve always got a few people who are not comfortable, not happy.”
But she admitted that Bolton primary care trust, which had taken had taken “firm views from every practice” in the area, had found that, alongside the eight that are already involved, only a further 26 of the 57 GP practices “said they were absolutely ready to go forward”.
Eight GP practices wanted more information, another eight “were not going forward under any circumstances and the rest wanted to wait and see”, Braunold said.
She said there was “a strong feeling in one or two practices” against the upload of summary records, while “quite a lot of practices want to stand back and look at the workload issues”.
Other doctors might be waiting because there was always “more pain” for early implementers than for those who took on new systems after initial problems had been ironed out, she said.
The attitude of doctors in Bolton “reflects the national picture, except that its an area where we’ve done a lot of discussing”, Braunold said.
The British Medical Association has written to ministers urging that the summary records should not be rolled out nationally until the results of the pilot schemes have been reviewed.
Braunold said that Connecting for Health, which runs the huge NHS computer project, was preparing for a wider roll-out of the records, because “it would be negligent not to be planning for mainstreaming” the records. But the IT agency would “allow for the impact of the evaluation output”.
The evaluation is set to be conducted in summer next year by University College London.