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‘Employment law’ to blame for software disruption

IT experts have blamed employment law for preventing the continuation of three primary care software systems, leaving almost 600 practices needing to find another supplier.

Earlier this month, CSC said it could not continue to support iSoft products Synergy, Premiere and Ganymede, meaning 582 GP practices would have to switch to other systems. The company said it would support practices in England and Northern Ireland until the end of October 2013 and until March 2014 for practices in Wales.

Dr John Lockley, chair of the iSoft User Group (iSUG) and former external medical consultant at CSC, said the company had tried to sell the code for the software to potential buyers or the NHS, and even considered giving it away for free.

However, interested parties were put off developing the code because they would be liable to take on the employment rights of CSC staff under TUPE employment laws.

Making the code available under an open source license, so it could be freely used, would be technically possible, he added. However, this would be problematic due to considerations such as clinical liability and the fact that such work would be time and resource consuming.

In a copy of his address to the annual iSUG conference last week, sent to Pulse, he urged for a change in the law or its interpretation so the situation could be resolved.

‘The committee feels strongly that GP Systems of Choice and the Department of Health need to look closely at this area, for the future,’ he said. ‘Never again do we want to see further situations where software used in healthcare is there, but cannot legally continue to be used.’

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC´s IT subcommittee and a GP in Wimbledon, said that being unable to make the code available due to TUPE laws would cause ‘huge disruption’ but that the GPC was powerless to intervene.

‘The TUPE laws are plain stupid. The reasons its being sold is because it’s unviable so another provider would not want to employ all the staff,’ Dr Cundy said.

‘TUPE laws go far beyond health so the GPC is not in a position to intervene in this case. I hope the laws are being interpreted properly.’

‘It would be very sensible if one of the other GP stock suppliers bought the code. Otherwise people will have to move to another system, which will cause huge disruption.’