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Biggest teaching hospital faces IT shutout

Europe's largest teaching hospital may never link up with the £6.2 billion NHS National Programme for IT, new documents reveal.

By Ian Cameron

Papers released by West Yorkshire strategic health authority state that local funding to enable NHS trusts to implement electronic booking and the National Care Record is in danger of running out because of delays in delivering the IT systems.

The 'key implication', the report stated, 'is there is insufficient funding to support further entrants within West Yorkshire or to continue the programme beyond 31 March 2007'.

It concluded: 'In particular it is very difficult to plan for the entry of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust into the programme.'

The NHS trust was due to implement Choose and Book and Care Record systems in December 2006. But the paper stated: 'It is now unlikely that a suitable product will be available before the end of 2008.

'If further funding is not forthcoming, it is possible the trust will not be in a position to implement Connecting for Health services.'

The paper added this would be 'a problem for all trusts in a similar position to Leeds'.

The failure of hospitals to link up with Choose and Book and the Care Record would render the systems next to useless to GPs.

Dr Richard Vautrey, Leeds LMC secretary and a GPC negotiator, said the hospital trust had long suffered from underinvestment in IT.

He said: 'We wait with interest to see how Choose and Book will operate in Leeds, particularly whether it can put up the directory of services and whether all appointments will be available [electronically].'

Problems at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust meant the four Leeds PCTs were the only ones in England not to qualify last year for initial incentive payments for Choose and Book, worth £6,000 per practice.

Dr Helen Alpin, chair of the professional executive committee at East Leeds PCT, said hospital systems were still terrible in comparison with GPs'. She said: 'We've got good IT systems but are having to deal with hospital services which are still pushing paper round on trolleys.'

John Hampson, deputy chief information officer at West Yorkshire strategic health authority, said it was working with Connecting for Health to 'ensure that any risks relating to future implementations are minimised'.

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