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GPs may lose thousands in storm over IT charges

GPs are being forced to shell

out thousands of pounds on computer bills they should not be paying. It follows ministers' failure to reveal how much cash will be available to fund IT

under the new contract.

LMCs have urged GPs to get repayment guarantees 'written in blood' ­ or risk never getting the cash back.

PCOs took responsibility for all IT maintenance and upgrade costs, backdated to April 1, as soon the ballot Yes vote was announced. But many are refusing to pay GPs' bills until ministers tell them how much central funding they will get and when they will get it.

Dr David Jenner, contract spokesman for the NHS Alliance, said the chaos had caused a 'planning blight', leaving GPs unable to prepare for the quality framework.

He added: 'PCOs are between a rock and a hard place.'

Dr Jenner warned confusion over PCOs' precise responsibilities meant GPs might not get all their spending repaid.

GP negotiators insist PCOs are responsibile for 100 per cent of all IT costs. But the NHS Modernisation Agency has told PCTs their remit

covers only maintenance and 'minor upgrades'.

Dr Ashok Rayani, Morgannwg LMC vice-chair, said: 'I'm very concerned PCTs will use some devious means of

ensuring we only get part-

reimbursement.'

South and North Essex LMC secretary Dr Brian Balmer said: 'It would be unwise for GPs to commit resources on a verbal agreement with a PCT. I'd want it written in blood.'

Sean Riddell, deputy managing director of software supplier Emis, said the situation was 'very confusing' with some PCOs paying maintenance bills and others asking GPs to pay and claim later.

Dr Stephen Hiew's practice discovered its PCT had failed to pay a £4,000 IT maintenance bill when it reported a software fault.

Supplier Emis told the practice in Edmonton, north London, it would have to foot the bill before the problem could be tackled.

Dr Hiew said: 'It's a mess. You get messages from the Government about changes but no one knows what happens next.' Enfield PCT said it would pay up when it got its central IT cash 'by next April'.

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