The RCGP has done an about-face and declared its support for the Summary Care Record (SCR) - placing the college on a collision course with the GP profession.
In a letter to the BMJ, RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field and vice chair Dr Clare Gerada said the college 'had concerns over this scheme, initially'. But, 'we now believe there are enough checks and balances to make it a significant move for-ward in patient safety and clinical care', they added.
The letter cited increased security, the introduction of the audit trail, and the switch to a 'consent-to-view' model.
Although some GPs fear their role will be undermined by allowing other clinicians access to patient records, the letter states that the college has 'more confidence in the intrinsic value of general practice'.
The SCR, it concludes, will speed up access to up-to-date patient data and promote 'safer, more effective care, wherever the patient chooses to access it'.
The move represents a substantial shift from the earlier RCGP opposition to the SCR, and clashes with views expressed by many RCGP members.
The recent LMCs conference in London passed motions criticising the SCR's use of 'implied consent' and arguing that GPs' role in holding patient records was 'fundamental to maintaining confidentiality'.
Dr Francisco Scaglioni, of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LMC, said that allowing patients to opt-in was the 'only ethically acceptable arrangement'. 'Implied consent is how you get the answer you want,' he added.
In a reply to the RCGP's letter, Hampshire GP Neil Bhatia accused the college's leadership of being 'hopelessly out of touch' with front-line GPs.
'The college hierarchy (...) may have their own personal views on the SCR. But to state that the college as a whole is supportive is blatantly untrue,' he added.
GPC IT lead Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the committee backed the theory behind the SCR. But he added that it still has 'a myriad of process concerns' regarding issues such as security and consent.
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