Advisers warn IT crisis will cause GP pain
GPs face a 'slow and painful' process implementing the quality framework because essential IT systems will not be in place, the Government's leading primary care researchers are warning.
The alert came as some LMCs reported million pound- plus deficits in PCTs' IT budgets and a backlog of practices needing system upgrades.
GPs have also condemned as 'tortuous' a new appeals process under which strategic health authorities have to plead practices' case for extra IT cash with the Government.
But GPC joint deputy-chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said GPs were 'panicking' about IT problems and systems would be in place early next year.
A report from the Government-funded National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, based on a road-test of quality indicators in 16 practices, warned the biggest risk to the framework was inadequate IT systems.
Only half of the practices had modern IT systems for registration, prescribing and consultation data. Government investment in IT was 'unlikely to have reached practices which have most need,' the report concluded.
Study leader Professor Martin Roland, external adviser on the quality framework and director of the research centre, said without major IT investment, quality assessment would be 'expensive, time-consuming and produce data of questionable validity'.
Fellow author Professor Martin Marshall, professor of general practice at the centre, said the IT crisis meant the framework would be 'implemented slowly and painfully'. He said the £20 million pledged by the Government wouldn't solve the problem.
GPs said trusts had huge IT budget deficits and faced a backlog of upgrades because GPs had delayed the work.
Dr Simon Bradley, director of Avon LMC and a GP in Bristol, said the shortfall in Avon was £1.3 million.
Dr Chris Tiarks, secretary of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire LMC, said 10 trusts in his region had a shortfall of at least £100,000 each. 'This is where the contract will stand or fall,' he added.
PCTs have to ask their strategic health authority for additional IT money on top of their allocation. The authority then has to plead its case with the Government.
Dr John Calver, co-medical secretary of Kent LMC, said it was a 'tortuous' way to deliver a contract pledge.
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