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GPs are still being denied a free choice of IT system by PCTs because a promise made by ministers in March has not been acted on.

Sources close to Connecting for Health admit GPs in at least two of the five 'clusters' are being stopped from upgrading to new systems from EMIS and some other major suppliers.

GPs in the Eastern and North Eastern 'clusters' covered by Accenture are instead being told they will have to move to new SystemOne or Synergy software.

The restriction is because contracts between the NHS and the five local service providers including Accenture have yet to be rewritten to enable them to offer EMIS and other alternatives.

This has meant providers, who are incentivised to get as many GPs as possible on to systems compatible with the NHS Care Record and Choose and Book, are pressuring PCTs to get GPs to

switch to systems they can

offer now.

A source close to Connecting for Health said the March announcement by former health minister John Hutton had been 'political'.

He added: 'What has not been determined is the mechanics to allow it to happen.'

Sean Riddell, deputy managing director of EMIS, said PCTs were refusing GPs' requests for upgrades to EMIS 'more frequently than I would have expected'.

He added: 'The Government announcement was unambiguous.

'It should be GPs making the choice and PCTs facilitating it rather than making the choice on behalf of doctors.'

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, said it was understandable that there would be delays while the £1 billion contracts with the five providers were 'unpicked'.

But he said it was wrong for PCTs to put obstacles in the way of GPs who wanted to move to particular IT systems.

He said: 'It's wrong for them to withhold payment because of the technical complexities in these contracts.'

By Ian Cameron

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