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GP fears over data secrecy were ignored

The Government rejected GPC demands for GPs to retain ownership of their computer equipment despite strong warnings of GPs' concerns over patient confidentiality.

GPs will receive 100 per cent reimbursement of their IT costs from their primary care organisation under the contract, but will have to give up ownership of the hardware.

The decision means PCOs will own the data inputted by practices. They will also take on liability for breaches in patient confidentiality.

GPs had expressed concern that practices' data may not be sufficiently anonymised and that it was more likely to be passed to third parties, including insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms, if PCOs took over ownership.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd told a recent meeting of GPs in Kent that negotiators had fought 'long and hard' for ownership of IT.

'It's not what we wanted because they (PCOs) will own the data but because of the (quality) outputs they will know it all anyway,' he said.

'As for broken confidentiality that's their problem.'

GPs' fears over PCOs' ability to maintain their systems appear to have been answered by the contract. IT providers and PCOs have to sign service-level agreements to guarantee GPs will receive adequate technical support.

Maintenance agreements for GPs' existing computer equipment will come to an end in the coming year. GPs would then receive 100 per cent reimbursement from their PCO rather than the current 50 per cent.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said many PCOs had already told GPs they had the extra cash to cover the IT costs. Any PCO that denied it had the money was lying, he added.

'GPs should tell us the name of the PCT chief executive and we will take that name to Mr Milburn and they will be sacked,' he said.

Guidance will be sent to GPs shortly on the importance of using new Read codes relevant to the quality markers and how to upgrade their systems in order to produce their practices' annual report.

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