Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Do summary care records have the potential to do more harm than good? No

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 16 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3022
  1. Mark Walport, director
  1. 1Wellcome Trust, London NW1 2BE
  1. m.walport{at}

    Ross Anderson (doi:10.1136/bmj.c3020) argues that the national electronic database of patient records is both unnecessary and illegal, but Mark Walport believes that it will make valuable contributions to better care

    I recently received a leaflet from my local NHS updating me about changes to the way my health information will be stored and giving me the opportunity to opt out of the summary care record. I wouldn’t dream of opting out of this. I am delighted to see progress—eventually—being made towards introducing a joined up system for electronic patient records.

    It is impossible to be a patient or to practise medicine without being frustrated about incomplete and lost health records, difficulty in communications among the extended healthcare team, and needless clinical errors and failure to implement best practice guidelines. Good information technology has the capacity to be transformational. I shall never forget the dramatic improvement to the quality of service to patients and staff that followed the introduction of the first x ray picture archiving system in the UK at Hammersmith Hospital.

    Better care

    As the leaflet makes clear, the summary care record will provide my healthcare team with quicker access to more reliable information that should help …

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