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GPs have begun a concerted campaign against the Government's National Programme for IT over a series of policies that threaten massive disruption to practices.

The battle centres on the programme's plans, revealed by Pulse, to force most GPs to change their computer system, possibly to an untried alternative.

GP users of EMIS, which is likely to be sidelined by the proposals, kicked off the campaign with a letter to practices warning that GPs would lose choice over their IT system and face huge upheaval if the proposals went ahead.

Dr Manpreet Pujara, chair of the EMIS User Group, urged GPs to contact their MP and PCO in protest.

Dr Pujara, a GP in Rochest-er, Kent, said: 'This is not

just about EMIS, it is about the future of GP computer systems.

'We have world-leading IT systems in general practice and I wonder why there is the need to change that. If it isn't broke why fix it?'

The campaign received a boost after the National Audit Office last week announced an investigation into the £6.2 billion national programme, before it has even begun most of its work.

In a letter to a national newspaper welcoming the probe, Dr Mark McCartney, a GP in Pensilva, Cornwall, said the national programme was 'a scheme that is not needed'.

Pulse can also reveal that one of the programme's flagship initiatives, 'Choose and Book', is beset with technical problems.

Pilot schemes for the programme, in which GPs book hospital appointments electronically during a consultation, have been delayed and only a handful of appointments have so far been booked.

Dr David Rose, a GP in Barnsley, one of the pilot areas, said his practice was due to start using the system last week. 'We don't know when it will be now,' he said. 'There are always concerns when using new technology.'

A spokeswoman for the national programme admitted 'teething problems' and that 'a relatively small number of patients' had used the system.

RCGP chair Professor David Haslam also attacked plans under Choose and Book to enable patients to return to their GP to make a second choice if they were unhappy with their first referral.

Professor Haslam said the proposals would turn GPs into 'travel agents' and dramatically increase their workload.

lComment, page 24

By Joe Lepper

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