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Doctors lose faith in NHS IT project

Survey finds just one in four GPs are enthusiastic about the NHS National Programme for IT

A new survey shows that doctors' enthusiasm for England's NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is continuing to decline.

The survey, compiled by Medix and released on 20 November, 2006, shows that only 25 percent of GPs and 41 percent of other doctors say they feel enthusiastic about the programme, compared with 56 percent and 75 percent when the question was first asked in February 2004.

Over the same period, the proportion of GPs regarding it as a priority for the NHS has fallen from 70 percent to 35 percent, while the figure for other doctors has gone from 80 percent to 51 percent.

A few more positive views emerged from the survey. The proportion of doctors believing that NPfIT will improve clinical care, at least in the long term, has remained fairly steady, the latest figures being 58 percent for GPs and 69 percent for others.

In addition, the majority of doctors continue to support two of the core elements of NPfIT, the Care Records Service and e-prescriptions. But the third core service, Choose and Book for patient referrals to secondary care, is now rated as important by 26 percent of GPs and 28 percent of others.

Doctors have also expressed concerns over the effect of the Care Records Service, which will provide a central electronic patient record. Seventy-nine percent of GPs and 55 percent of non-GPs believe it could lessen patient confidentiality, with 51 percent and 47 percent respectively saying they are unlikely to upload patients' details without specific consent.

Medix says that doctors were initially enthusiastic about the programme but that this has declined.

"Today, four years later, half of the doctors know little or nothing about it, hardly any say they have had adequate consultation and most think the project is being poorly implemented. Because of this, and despite their continuing belief in its potential benefits, doctors' confidence that NPfIT will deliver those benefits is undermined and their enthusiasm waning.

"A revival of that enthusiasm could forge a strong partnership between CfH and the medical profession, a partnership that would be a basis for jointly overcoming many of the problems that are inevitable for such an ambitious project."

The survey ran from 7-13 November and drew responses 437 GPs and 589 other doctors, accounting for more than 1 percent of those who practice in England.