By Daniel Martin
The NHS is scaring patients into signing up to its controversial database – by claiming that those who refuse run the risk of receiving the wrong test results or the wrong drugs.
Dire warnings have been placed on the website of the agency in charge of the new IT system, saying that failure to sign up could lead to lost records and prescribing errors.
Patients are allowed to opt out of having their information stored on the database, which is designed to be accessible to all GPs, hospital consultants, nurses and other NHS staff.
It is intended to replace the current system, under which health records are written on paper files in GPs’ offices and cannot easily be accessed by hospital staff.
But doctors’ leaders have complained that the database makes it too hard to opt out, prompting the government to suspend the roll-out of the programme in some areas.
Now it has emerged the NHS is trying a different tactic to persuade patients to sign up – scaremongering.
On the website for the NHS Connecting for Health agency, visitors are warned that if they opt out of the computerised ‘summary care record’ scheme, they could suffer ‘adverse consequences’, including ‘a delay or missed opportunity for correct treatment’.
It says: ‘The NHS has significant problems now with lost records and test results and treatment and prescribing errors.’
But critics argue that the dangers are not as high as the agency is suggesting.
On Sunday night, a Department of Health spokesman said the problem of lost records or mistreatment was not a major concern, prompting speculation that the Government was making the claim to frighten patients into joining the database.
Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The whole handling of the summary care record system has been sneaky and underhand, with the government doing anything to prevent people from opting out of the system.
‘If you value your privacy, ignore these false and misleading warnings and opt out.’ More than 1.25million patients’ records have already gone on to the database.
But fears about the security of highly personal health details, including sexual history, drug use, HIV status and mental illness, are driving a backlash.