PCTs must fund practice IT security upgrades

PCTs are set to shell out for IT upgrades, because the DoH thinks GP computer systems are not secure.

Connecting for Health's Kemi Adenubi, the programme director for GP Systems of Choice (GPSoC), recently wrote to all of England's PCTs and SHAs to warn them that: 'Most existing GP clinical IT systems do not currently provide the protection that will meet the DoH's data security requirements.'

Current plans to upgrade some systems do not cover back-up tapes, or information on devices such as portable data assistants (PDAs). To rectify these problems Connecting for Health is asking its IT suppliers to offer services which encrypt these devices.

'Connecting for Health will negotiate value for money pricing for these services centrally,' wrote Mr Adenubi.

But he added: 'There is no central funding for these services and it will fall to PCTs to order and fund these services locally.'

A Connecting for Health spokeswoman could not comment on how much the upgrade would cost. The information would be published on the GPSoC website as soon as deals were agreed with suppliers, she said.

Some GPs have questioned the move. Dr Gerard Bulger, a GP in Hertfordshire and head of the Microtest Users Group, said that back-up tapes and PDAs are already adequately secured.

To access patient data a user would have to get past a firewall, and have access to specialist software, he explained.

'The bigger risk might be GPs carrying data sticks,' he added. 'Those probably should be encrypted.'

The new encryption services should be available to GPs by the end of April.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

GPSoC website

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