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Gold, incentives and meh

Government target for GP e-booking 'bound to slip'

The Government is almost certain to miss its target for GPs to make all hospital referrals electronically by the end of next year, Pulse has learned.

A GP close to the £6 billion National Programme for NHS IT said the high-profile target had been too 'optimistic' and was bound to slip.

The GP, who requested anonymity, predicted ministers would be forced to phase

in the scheme over a longer period.

The national programme recently admitted that BT, which has been contracted to build and manage the infrastructure which makes the booking system possible, had been fined for failing to meet recent deadlines.

Dr Tony Stern, a GP in north London and one of four clinical leads attached to the electronic booking programme, admitted it was 'rare that any NHS targets are completely hit'. He said: 'These things are not in tablets of stone.'

GPC IT sub-committee chair Dr Paul Cundy said the Government's failure to engage GPs in the programme had put the target in jeopardy.

'In my opinion every referral being electronically booked by the end of 2005 is about as likely as me laying eggs,' he said. 'It could be technically possible, but it's about changing the way people work and winning hearts and minds.'

Motions to this week's LMC conference reveal the scale of GPs' concern over the Government's plans for electronic booking and a national electronic patient record.

Three LMCs have given their support to a motion from Wiltshire LMC arguing the timetable for e-booking is 'unrealistic and unworkable with present resources'.

By Ian Cameron

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