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GPs have no faith in £6bn NHS IT programme

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A new poll of doctors has found falling levels of support among GPs and consultants for the NHS's £6.2bn National Programme for IT.

Last year, a similar poll found that 56 per cent of GPs, and 75 per cent of consultants in England supported the NPfIT. In January, this dropped to 21 per cent and 51 per cent respectively. Both surveys were carried out by Medix.

The Guardian, which sponsored the poll along with Computer Weekly, said the poll revealed a collapse in confidence among doctors that threatens the viability of the project. The NPfIT refutes the suggestion, saying that the sample was very small, and the survey highlights negative responses.

A statement from the NPfIT reads: "We know there has been some discontinuity in our clinical engagement. But we have recently adopted a new approach, appointing a number of senior clinicians to lead this engagement work. The Medix survey was conducted in the period after the appointment of these new clinical leads but well before their work has had the chance to penetrate at grass roots level."

The National Audit Office also voiced significant concerns about the programme's flagship electronic referrals project last month. It said lack of engagement with GPs, and low levels of support from medical personnel needed to be address very vigorously.

The latest Medix poll reveals continuing concern over the security of confidential patient information in the new system. Just two per cent of GPs think electronic records will be more secure than the current system.

Many doctors expressed a lack of confidence in the government's ability to make big IT projects work; many more were concerned about patient confidentiality, and increased workload. Others simply said they had not had enough information.

Paul Cundy, chairman of the GPs' committee on IT at the British Medical Association, told The Guardian: "It's increasingly difficult to remain optimistic about NPfIT, given the collapse of enthusiasm for it in the profession. It's fallen over a cliff edge." ®

The Guardian story is here and the survey results are here (word document).

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