PCTs pressurising GPs over IT systems choice

GP IT experts have warned that some PCTs are continuing to put pressure on GP practices to switch IT systems, despite a deal meant to guarantee choice.

IT agency Connecting for Health announced a deal earlier this month under the GP Systems of Choice initiative to enable practices in England to choose systems from any of eight leading suppliers (GP, 17 August).

But Dr Manpreet Pujara, chairman of the national user group for the EMIS practice IT system, has warned that the 'battle for choice' is not yet won.

Speaking at last week's EMIS user group conference, he said some PCTs wanted all practices to use the same IT system: 'Some PCTs are still going down the single-system route. If you have a tool that does the job then you want to keep it, but now you may have to fight for it.'

Connecting for Health and GPC leaders are confident the deal will give practices a choice.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'We have a system in place where there is real choice for practices. If PCTs are restricting the choice of system, practices should involve their local LMC to approach the PCT in a unified way.'

GP clinical lead of Connecting for Health Dr Gillian Braunold also believed the deal guaranteed choice, and added that around 80 per cent of GP practices in England would be eligible for upgrades to practice IT equipment.

Dr Braunold told GP that £80 million, the equivalent of £9,000 per practice, was given to PCTs to fund infrastructure upgrades. Most of the money is for improvements to servers used to store practices' electronic patient records locally, or to cover the cost of switching to a remotely hosted system.

'We expect that most of those with a local server will switch to a hosted server,' she said.

'Previously they resisted doing this as it may have meant switching supplier but under the new arrangements they can do that with their own supplier.'

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