GP encourages database opt-out

AN ESSEX GP has revealed the number of his patients opting out of a controversial national database could reach as high as 15%.

Dr Philip Woodcock, a senior partner at Mersea Island Medical Practice, has run a campaign to encourage patients not to have a summary care record.

These records contain all key medical information about patients and will be on a massive electronic database accessible to GPs and hospital staff.

However, concerns about the system have been raised by civil liberties groups and Dr Woodcock said he is worried medical records could end up on-line without the patients’ consent.

In December the EADT revealed health bosses at NHS North East Essex would not be supplying the opt-out forms in packs posted to 270,000 patients but they denied claims they were making it hard to stay off the system.

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Dr Woodcock’s practice has been supplying “DIY” opt-out forms to patients in an attempt to make it as simple as possible for those opposed to having a summary care record.

And he predicted up to 15% of patients could choose to stay off the database.

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He said: “This is most heartening when you think that the primary care trust (PCT) was predicting a 0.66% rate. They obviously misjudged the strength of public feeling.

“We at the surgery stuck our necks out in what we felt were our patients’ interests and sounded a public warning, at the same time devising a special opt-out form to be completed by patients and returned to us.

“The delivery of these was timed to coincide with the delivery of the PCT documents to patients.

“Now our DIY forms are steadily coming back and being processed, but we still have blanks available at the surgery for any patient who hadn’t opted out but now wishes to do so.”

Dr Woodcock added: “Our course of action would seem to be justified by recent Press revelations that in some areas of the country – not, here, though – medical records had already been put online without patients’ consent.”

NHS North East Essex said that the information pack, sent out in January, “explained fully” what was involved in having a summary care record and how to opt out.

June Francis, summary care record project manager, said previously: “The main reason we have not included an opt-out form in the pack is the fact that current national opt-out rate is just 0.67%. It is difficult to justify the cost of printing and the extra postage of a form when such a small number of people are deciding to opt out.”

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