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IT drive makes little progress

The £6.2 billlion NHS IT programme has made almost no progress on its central aim of enabling shared electronic patient records, the head of an

influential primary care IT group has said.

Ewan Davies, outgoing chair of the British Computer Society's Primary Health Care Specialist Group, said the National Programme for IT had also held back the development of primary care computer systems.

Speaking at the group's annual conference, Mr Davies said despite some improvements, such as to the NHS' network, progress overall had been 'disappointing'.

Connecting for Health, which runs the programme, had been too slow to acknowledge the strengths of existing systems, which have formed the basis of any successes it has had so far, he said.

Original proposals to shift all GPs on to one of two new clinical IT systems were 'laughable', Mr Davies added.

He said: 'Primary care has stagnated because suppliers have been fighting for survival. The net contribution is small.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, joint

national clinical lead for Connecting for Health, defended the programme, arguing it had made major advances.

She said: 'It's not going on time, nobody makes any bones about that – but the taxpayer is not paying for the delays. We are getting there more than people realise.'

Connecting for Health –

where are we now?

Care record

At least 50 PCTs have applied

to become early adopters of summary care records. Implementation to begin

early 2007.

Choose and Book

61,000 referrals last week. Nearly three-quarters of practices using the system routinely.

Electronic transfer of prescriptions

1,710 practices are enabled to use system. 880 doing so.

GP Systems of Choice

HM Treasury analysing business plan to allow the continued choice of IT systems by GPs. Specifications for an agreement to be published later this month.

Electronic transfer of records

35 practices in Gateshead and Isle of Wight trialling swapping of records across the same IT systems. Trials across different systems to begin in Croydon next month.

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