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GPs have grave concerns about the National Programme for IT ­ Simon Crawshaw reports on the latest Pulse survey

GPs believe the National Programme for IT will deliver a devastating blow to their

practices and threaten earnings and patient confidentiality.

A Pulse survey of 430

GPs found 95 per cent felt the programme would either worsen GP computing or stifle

innovation in developing systems.

Four GPs out of five said they feared practice data would be lost or corrupted if they were forced to change systems.

The damning verdict was delivered equally by EMIS users, who have been at the centre of a row with the programme after the company refused to sign contracts with local service providers, and those of other software such InPracticeSystems and Torex.

An overwhelming majority of GPs demanded they retain the right to choose IT systems, with 86 per cent arguing they should be able to pick any software that meets national standards.

The national programme has said GPs will be given a choice of only two systems, one of which must be new untried software developed by local service providers.

Dr Peter Swinyard, GPC representative for Wiltshire and Dorset and a GP in Swindon, said forcing GPs to change systems would cause chaos: 'They haven't even produced any workable software at the moment and are leaving GPs in the dark.'

Half of GPs said they feared losing earnings if they were forced to changed systems and 55 per cent said patient care would suffer. Only 17 per cent of respondents said they thought the programme would make GP computing better.

Dr Peter Ackroyd, a GP in Telford, Shropshire, said the national programme had 'commissioned cowboys' to implement its plans.

Dr Alistair Sutcliffe, a GP in Whitby, North Yorkshire, said the Government was not listening to GPs' concerns. He added: 'It seems inevitable we will be made to change systems whether we like it or not and despite the problems GPs feel it will create.'

More than two-thirds of GPs blamed the Government and the national programme for the confusion surrounding the future of GP computing. The GPC was blamed by 17 per cent, with 13 per cent believing EMIS was at fault.

Just 3 per cent of GPs said they had no concerns about the national programme.

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