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Doctors back controversial NHS IT system

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NHS doctors have given the controversial new £12bn IT system their backing, but say that no more money should be spent on it. In a survey of 3,000 doctors, 66 per cent said they think the new system would make a positive change to the NHS.

In a survey carried out by website Doctors.net.uk for The Times newspaper, 86 per cent of the doctors surveyed said they thought the scheme should not be abandoned.

Doctors were asked whether they were optimistic that the Connecting for Health IT system would change the way the NHS is run and 91 per cent said yes. When asked if they were sceptical that it will make a positive change, 66 per cent said they were not sceptical.

The programme has been controversial because it has suffered long delays and huge cost over-runs. It has been criticised by government auditors, MPs and attacked by doctors, managers and privacy activists.

The National Audit Office produced a report last year that listed the delays, glitches, and cost over-runs and said the programme had lost the confidence of NHS staff.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee investigated the scheme last summer, and was told that hasty early decisions and a procurement process running "at breakneck speed", has in the long run caused lengthy delays. Elements of the project are now running years behind, the hearings were told.

The new survey, though, shows that doctors may be more supportive of the system than was previously thought. Only 14 per cent think that it should be abandoned, while 76 per cent do not agree that it has been a frustrating project.

In a clear signal to the Department of Health about how NHS money should be allocated, though, the doctors want Government to put a stop to the seemingly endless approval for cost over-runs. Ninety-one per cent of the doctors said they did not agree that more investment should be made in the system to ensure its success.

A similar survey carried out late last year found that NHS staff felt alienated by the programme, and that the body running it did not listen to or communicate with them. This survey's results appear to indicate either that that feeling is not very widespread among doctors, or that their opinions have changed in the past two months.

The scheme has also been involved with controversy over the health records at its heart. OUT-LAW recently revealed that the Department of Health had refused a large number of requests from patients that their details not be uploaded, and that the British Medical Association has threatened to ask doctors to boycott the system. Such a boycott would likely cripple the £12bn project.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Related links

NHS asks Lords to clarify freedom of information and data protection clash, OUT-LAW News, 07/02/2007
Pan European medical records system proposed, OUT-LAW News, 30/01/2007

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