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GP legal fears on exercise referral

PCTs are holding GPs to ransom by refusing to replace out-of-date computer equipment unless practices sign up to new IT systems, writes Ian Cameron.

One in three practices is now running on inadequate servers as a result of the problem, which is bringing practices to a standstill and jeopardising patient care.

Primary care IT experts said trusts were 'throwing' new PCs at practices to enable them to connect to Choose and Book ­ but then undermining the investment by refusing to upgrade vital servers.

Lack of guidance from Connecting for Health on the Government's promise to give GPs a free choice of IT system had given cash-strapped PCTs the opportunity, they added.

Increasing numbers of practices are now considering paying for upgrades themselves.

Dr John Lockley, spokesman for the Torex users group and a GP in Milton Keynes, said the problem was equivalent to the planning 'blight' affecting premises. He said: 'We were told we would have a free choice of system and that IT costs would be reimbursed 100 per cent. In practice, that promise appears to have been utterly and completely broken.'

Ewan Davies, chair of the British Computer Society's Primary Healthcare Specialist Computer Group, said many GPs last server upgrade was before the Y2K bug threat. 'We are at a point where 20 to 30 per cent of practices are running on equipment over five years old.'

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