Princess Street Group Practice at Elephant & Castle is to be the first GP surgery in London to introduce the controversial national electronic patient record known as the Summary Care Record.
NHS Southwark claims that the Summary Care Record will contribute to a higher standard of care as clinicians will have easier access to information regarding the treatment of an individual patient whether they are seen locally or by health services elsewhere in the country.
In the future the Summary Care Record will allow clinicians in accident and emergency, GP out of hours service and walk-in centres to share information about patients wherever they receive treatment.
The introduction of the SCR system across the country has been plagued by delays and technical glitches. Privacy campaign groups such as NO2ID have condemned the "state surveillance" they fear will result from the creation of a national database.
"We would encourage all our patients to allow their records to be loaded onto the system as access to the Summary Care Record will allow clinicians to find out what the patients current medication is, any allergy details and if they suffer any bad reactions to medicines, helping to make sure that any treatment given is safe and appropriate," says Dr Sam Soo from Princess Street Group Practice.
Patients can opt out if they do not wish to have a Summary Care Record by informing the practice in writing. A sample opt-out letter is available at www.nhsconfidentiality.org/optoutletter
Patients who opt out will still have some information (name; address; date of birth; sex) held on the national system.
"The Summary Care Record is all about improving patient care," insists Dr Jane Fryer of NHS Southwark. "I would find it tremendously helpful to be able to look at patients' records if they were using my surgery for the first time to make sure I was giving appropriate treatment. I would also want another clinician giving treatment to one of my patients to be able to look at their records to make sure their treatment was right as well."
At present it can take up to one month to transfer patients' records from their old GP surgery to their new one. With the Summary Care Record the new surgery will have access to the electronic file before the full paperwork arrives.
NHS Southwark will be setting up a system for patients to register with the Healthspace website where they will be able to view their own record. It is expected that the records of Princess Street patients will be uploaded onto the national system in November.
The Summary Care Record will then be extended to other Southwark GP practices over the next couple of years.