Faced with an uphill battle to be re-elected, it desperately wants to prove that its £12 billion expenditure on the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) was justified. What better way to do this than by rolling out SCR uploads just as the election is called?
Unfortunately, three important problems stand in its way. Only a proportion of practices have gone through accreditation to prove that their patient summaries are fit for sharing. There are deep concerns over whether uploaded information will remain truly confidential; and there is the vexed question of obtaining patient consent.
The proper, ethical course of action would have been for the government to insist on IT accreditation for each practice before uploading its summaries - then all SCRs would be of uniformly high quality. Dropping the accreditation requirement means that hospital and A&E clinicians cannot assume that individual summaries are either complete or up to date, and will therefore not be able to rely on any of them. By rushing into SCR upload the government will render a key portion of NPfIT totally unfit for purpose.
The consent model adopted by the government is also ill-conceived. Patients should have had to opt-in rather than opt-out to the uploading of their SCR: if an opt-out model has to be used, an opt-out form should have been included with the literature. Making opting out difficult is simply bullying for political purposes.
Even worse, Labour has emphasised the importance of patient choice. Yet, hypocritically, where patients really need choice, the government slyly tries to deny it.
All this couldn't paint a clearer picture of the values of New Labour: this government will do anything to get re-elected, even if it means ruining the effectiveness of NPfIT, jeopardising SCR quality for the entire population of England, and strong-arming the populace into complying with its wishes.
This whole situation has exposed the true nature of this government - manipulative, cynical, controlling and hypocritical: interested only in power, and to hell with everyone else.
Please remember this episode on election day.
The GP Record, by Fran Orford: www.francartoons.com