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GPs vulnerable to IT failure

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs are leaving themselves vulnerable to IT system failures, with only a minority having validated procedures in place for making sure the practice can stay open.

Although more than half of practices have contingency plans in place in the event of system failures, the majority are not properly tested, and most GPs admit that if computers go down they won't be able to maintain services properly.

The figures obtained from Pulse's exclusive IT survey show that only 59% of practices have a business continuity plan in place for when IT systems fail or are unexpectedly not available.

But under half (45%) of those with plans in place said contingencies would be ‘readily available' in the event of a power or telephone failure, with just a quarter having tested them, and only 8% having had them independently assured.

Dr Amit Tiwari, a GP in West Mersea, Essex, whose practice has had their system independently assured, said: ‘It's important that procedures are tested and validated, and that there is a sensible approach to information gathering and logging so nothing is missed because of IT failure.'

Dr Richard Van Mellaerts, a GP in Kingston-upon-Thames, admitted that the issue could become ‘a big problem' for GPs if systems were down for a prolonged period in time.

He said: ‘It's probably reasonable for a practice to have a continuity plan in place for a short-term loss of access. But practices should certainly be backing up every day, and have a ‘disaster plan' in place.'

GPs vulnerable to IT failure Click here to read the rest of our special issue on IT and information governance. Guest editor