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Cost and confidentiality concerns undermine NHS IT plan

Fewer doctors think NPfIT is a priority

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Support is dwindling among medical practitioners for the multi-billion pound modernisation of the NHS’ IT systems, a major new study shows.

A survey of doctors by research firm Medix between December and January 2006 found that only one per cent of respondents thought implementation of the NHS' National Programme for IT (NPfIT) had so far been "good" or "excellent".

NpfIT, the largest civilian IT modernisation programme in the world, is expected to cost more than £6bn, and aims to connect 30,000 GPs to 300 hospitals.

However, the Medix survey reveals that widespread support for the programme when it first launched has given way to scepticism.

In a survey three years ago, two-thirds of doctors said the programme was a priority for the NHS, compared to only four-in-10 in the latest poll.

And in the Medix survey, only 13 per cent of GPs and 19 per cent of other doctors said the NPfIT was a good use of NHS resources, compared to 66 per cent and 50 per cent respectively who said it was not.

The survey also raised concerns among doctors over issues of consultation and confidentiality.

Most doctors said they knew fairly little about NPfIT, with 56 per cent claiming to have little or no information about it, including six per cent of respondents for whom the survey was the first they had heard of it. Only one-in-25 doctors said they have had a lot of information on NPfIT - a slight increase on the one per cent three years ago.

And asked whether the advent of the NHS care records service - a central plank of the NPfIT - would mean greater security for patients’ records, 71 per cent of GPs said the information would be less secure. This compares with only one-in-12 respondents who said they would be more secure.

More positively for NHS Connecting for Health (the agency charged with implementing NPfIT), 59 per cent of GPs and 66 per cent of other doctors said the programme would improve clinical care in the long-term.

Responding to the Medix survey, NHS Connecting for Health said its own research, by pollsters Mori, had found staff to be "supportive" of what the programme is trying to achieve.

A spokesman added: "There is usually a dip in confidence in IT change programmes as early implementation gets underway - this is the phase that NHS Connecting for Health is in."

View the survey results here (PDF: 444KB).

View NHS Connecting for Health Response to Medix Survey January 2006 here.

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