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GPs face bill for IT upgrades

GPs may be forced to pay for costly computer software upgrades in order to show they are meeting the new contract's quality markers.

Responsibility for funding information technology falls to primary care organisations under the contract, but there are fears debt-ridden trusts will not prioritise the role.

The British Computer Society has estimated more than a third of GPs in England and Wales and 15 per cent in Scotland will need significant IT systems upgrades.

Ewan Davies, vice-chair of the primary health care group of the society, said: 'Unless specific arrangements are put in place to ensure funding is paid into IT, experience tells us it will go on overspends.'

NHS Alliance chair Dr Mike Dixon said GPs might have to fund their own computer upgrades: 'It's possible some trusts will be unable to fund the level of IT quickly enough for some practices.'

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said ring-fenced money for IT would come from the modernisation fund.

Sticking points

GPC chair Dr John Chisholm on the contract talks:

 · Forced allocations

'Progress is being made but a final agreement has not been reached'

 · 48-hour access

'It would be premature to speak of movements by either party. We are working hard to achieve a solution that will be acceptable.'

 · Pensions

'There is further progress to be made and inevitably some of the decisions are going to be made at the last minute.'

 · Childhood immunisations and exception reporting

'The GPC believes very strongly in the concept of informed dissent. But as we have heard from [NHS Confederation negotiator] Dr Tony Snell the Government is very keen to avoid a fall-off in immunisation uptake.'

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