GPs have won their battle for a genuine choice over which computer system their practice uses.
The Government last week caved in to GPs' demands in a move which means thousands of EMIS users will have their current and future systems funded by PCTs.
Health minister John Hutton ruled that GPs should have a choice of any system which had a contract with any local service provider to the National Programme for IT.
At the same time he announced that EMIS, which is used by 56 per cent of GPs, had signed just such a contract with CSC Alliance, the prov-ider for the North West and West Midlands.
Previously, GPs had been told they would have a choice of two products at most and these would not include EMIS. GPs wanting a system outside of the two options would have had to pay for it themselves.
The U-turn marks an early victory in Pulse's manifesto for General Practice, which has called for 'genuine choice of IT system'.
Mr Hutton said the Government had listened to GPs: 'GPs have told us they want a wider choice of systems and I am pleased we can deliver this.'
GPs welcomed the climbdown, but argued more cynical motives were behind it.
Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC's IT sub-committee, said ministers had had a 'grim reality check' in the face of GPs' growing anger.
He said: 'This is about
getting what we were always entitled to.'
Dr Manpreet Pujara, chair of the EMIS users group and a GP in Rochester, Kent, said GPs using EMIS would be happy at the decision. But he warned NHS managers may still put up further barriers.
He said: 'The relief will be if we can get the message across to PCTs hands off our systems.'
Dr Gillian Braunold, one of two GP clinical champions at the national programme who played a key part in pushing forward GPs' views, said it had taken a 'pragmatic approach'.
But Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, said there were still concerns about a stipulation that patient data be stored in a 'remote location' away from the practice.
'GPs will need reassurance that safeguards are in place,' he added.
By Ian Cameron