UK Government

Department of Health (National): Review agrees value of a core Summary Care Record

Press Release   •   Oct 11, 2010 12:45 BST

Reviews commissioned by the Health Minister Simon Burns have concluded that a Summary Care Record containing core patient information will prove valuable for patients needing emergency care, the Department of Health announced today.

The Summary Care Record will only contain a patient's demographic details, medications, allergies and adverse reactions, information that may make all the difference to ensuring safe treatment when a patient needs emergency or unplanned care.
Safeguards for patients include requesting their permission to view the record at the point of healthcare.

Patients have a right to opt out of having a Summary Care Record and in future, all patients contacted by letter informing them that a record will be created, will have an opt out form and pre-paid envelope included.

For those patients already written to, there will be awareness raising campaigns at local, regional and national levels to ensure they realise that a Summary Care Record is being created for them, unless they choose to opt out.

A review, led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, involved leading patient representatives and clinicians and agreed that when patients require treatment in an emergency or out of hours clinicians should have access to the essential medical information they need to support safe treatment. There needs to be a clearly defined minimal scope of the Summary Care Record, with additional information only added following the explicit consent of the patient.

A review, led by Joan Saddler, Director of Patient and Public Affairs, into how patients are communicated with, agreed that the letter needs simplifying and an opt out form should be included. While agreeing that it would be a waste of public money to write again to the 30 million patients already contacted, it was recognised that efforts should be made at local, regional and national level to reinforce to patients that they have a choice not to have a Summary Care Record.

Health Minister, Simon Burns, said:

"I am pleased that a consensus has emerged about the importance of the SCR in supporting safe patient care, as long as the core information contained in it is restricted to medication, allergies and adverse reactions. Coupled with improvements to communication with patients which reinforce their right to opt out, we believe this draws a line under the controversies that the SCR has generated up to now. We see this review as having taken a significant step towards the goal of patients owning their records and using them to share decision-making with healthcare professionals."

Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, said:

"In an advanced national health care system it is reasonable for citizens to expect that when they arrive in Accident & Emergency or require treatment out of hours that clinicians treating them have access to enough basic medical information to prevent anyone making wrong or even dangerous decisions."

Joan Saddler, OBE, Director of Patient and Public Affairs, said:

"If we really want patients at the heart of care, the availability of core,personal and medical information when patients need care is essential.They must also be given clear and simple information about the Summary Care Record and the choices available to them. It should be easy for patients to opt out of the Summary Care Record and they must be supported in the decisions they take. Including the opt out form in patient letters reinforces our commitment to their right to choose not to have an SCR. Patients must be the ones who decide if any additional information should be included in their SCR, supported by appropriate professionals. This is the only way we will build trust in the SCR and its use."

Notes to editors: 

1) 3 million Summary Care Records have been created.

2) A number of regional case studies are available which include patient, nurse or doctor views on the SCR.

3) We continue to work with the DfE to improve information sharing and protocols between health professionals and children's services departments around the issue of child protection where there may be causes for concern about the welfare of a child who comes into contact with health services.

4) The following organizations have endorsed the value of the Summary Care Record:

Kieran Mullan, from the Patients Association said:

"The Summary Care Record has the potential to offer great benefits for patients by making key information available to clinicians treating patients in emergencies. It is also right that other useful information such as end of life care plans can be added to the record, but that this only happens at the explicit request of the patient. 
"Our helpline has heard from patients who have been unhappy with aspects of the roll out of the record, which makes it vital that information and choice is maximised in the future. We support the inclusion of an opt-out form in the information pack sent to patients and the extra safeguard of clinicians checking that a patient is happy to have a Summary Care Record before it is used for the first time."

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said:

"The RCN supports the findings of the review of the Summary Care Record and we welcome in particular:

* The clear purpose and scope for the first phase of content, focused on important information for decision making in emergency care situations.

* The inclusion of opportunity for patients to add important facts that they would want a clinician to know in an emergency.

* The agreement of the need for training and support for frontline staff regarding the uses and benefits of the SCR."

Dr Julia Riley, Head of the Department of Palliative Medicine at The Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton NHS Trusts in London, said:

"I am delighted that the Summary Care Record, when rolled out, will be available to help patients to die in their preferred place. Patients are currently being consented to share their clinical care plan and preferences on a local electronic register. There are benefits to be derived from the use of a nationally shared record. The enhanced functionality of a national Summary Care Record will give it a keen edge over the local registers currently available."

Neil Churchill, CEO of Asthma UK, said:

"Summary care records are a vital step forward in delivering safe and effective patient care. As a consenting patient with a long-term condition, I expect my medical details to be available wherever they are needed, which will ensure my safety in emergencies and improve consistency and quality of care whichever part of the NHS I deal with. My inches-thick hand-written file needs to be firmly consigned to Dr Finlay's casebook, where it belongs."

Steve Jenkin, health and social care director at Sue Ryder Care, said:

"Sue Ryder Care welcomes the introduction of Summary Care Records as a means of improving communication between healthcare providers and to support delivery of informed and quality care. 

"As a voluntary provider of health and social care, we're currently investigating the viability and cost implications of connecting all our hospices and community-based end of life care services to the NHS spine. Summary Care Records would enable our care services to have immediate access to NHS patient information which would support our staff in providing personalised quality care."

John Heyworth, President of The College of Emergency Medicine, said:

"The College of Emergency Medicine welcomes the decision to proceed with the Summary Care Record. Clinicians working in Emergency Departments are currently often deprived of key background patient information, particularly during the initial phase of time critical treatment, and this may significantly compromise the quality and safety of care provided. 

"Immediate access to such records will lead to better and safer care for our emergency patients."


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