Exclusive: GPs say NPfIT is not NHS priority

GP support for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is ebbing away, according to a GP -backed survey highlighting widespread concerns with the NHS IT plan for England.

The eighth annual Medix survey of attitudes to government's reform of NHS IT involved more than 1,000 doctors, including around 400 GPs. It found that while many had supported the principles of IT reform, they have become increasingly disillusioned over the last five years.

GP support has shown a marked drop. Just 30 per cent of those surveyed believe the NPfIT is an important priority for the NHS, compared with 67 per cent five years ago.

In addition just 23 per cent of GPs now consider themselves 'enthusiastic' about the project, compared with 56 per cent four years ago.

Across all health professions surveyed, the support is dropping away. Although 55 per cent of all doctors still believe NPfIT will improve clinical care in the long term this is a significant decrease from last year's figure of 65 per cent.

Key reasons for haemorrhaging of support include concerns about cost, the way health professions have been consulted and confidentiality of patient data in the electronic record.

Just 8 per cent of GPs believe NPfIT is a good use of NHS resources, compared with 47 per cent in 2003.

In terms of confidentiality, GPs are also becoming more sceptical, with 76 per cent of GPs now believing patient records will be less secure with the advent of the Care Records Service. This is up from 71 per cent who were asked the same question last year.

Robin Guenier, Medix non-executive chairman, said: 'While there is support for the principles of NPfIT, it has dropped.

'For a number of years those involved with NPfIT have said that clinical engagement is being addressed, but these findings show it isn't.'

However, a Connecting for Health spokesman disputed the validity of the report's findings.

He said that Choose and Book had made a 'positive contribution' to patient referral times and summary care records would improve patient safety.

'In the light of all of this wider experience and evidence, the results of the Medix survey do not appear to reflect the general picture on the ground or chime with other recent surveys,' he added.

GPletters@haymarket.com

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