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GP brushes off stress for patients

Practices that choose to keep existing computer systems including EMIS will be frozen out of cash for IT support and upgrades.

Local service providers to the National Programme for IT have admitted to GPs that only practices that switch to their chosen systems will be supported.

Providers also described the GMS contract guarantee that GPs will keep choice over which computer system they use as meaningless.

The comments in local meetings with GPs, hospital doctors and PCT managers came as GP support for the National Programme for IT hit a record low.

A survey of 900 doctors found just 41 per cent of GPs considered the national programme an important NHS priority, down from 70 per cent last year.

Only 5 per cent of GPs said they had been adequately consulted over the £6.2 billion programme, which includes Choose and Book and the electronic patient record.

Local service providers awarded multi-million pound contracts to implement the national programme also want

to harmonise GPs' computer systems.

Dr Steve Edmunds, a GP in Shrewsbury and GPC member, said CSC Alliance, the provider for the Midlands, admitted it only had a 'passing interest' in the systems GPs used now and supporting EMIS was a 'non-issue' for the company.

He said representatives from CSC Alliance, which has a £1.03 billion contract, described the contractual right of GPs to choose their IT system as 'Hobson's choice'.

He added: 'Practices wishing to stay with old systems could but would probably be neglected for support and upgrades. Access to newer services for patients/practices would come preferentially via iSoft products, namely Lorenzo.'

Lorenzo is the software developed by CSC Alliance's partner, iSoft, which it wants to install in practices in the North-West and West Midlands.

But Dr Edmunds said a demonstration of the as yet unreleased system revealed it would not suit GPs and would be a 'nightmare for Luddite doctors'.

By Ian Cameron

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