Doctors sceptical of £6bn NHS IT project

"The biggest government IT disaster yet?"
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

"The biggest government IT disaster yet?"

Doctors are becoming increasingly sceptical of the £6.2bn NHS IT programme as plans to create a national database of patient records move forward.

A study found that although many doctors said the programme could provide clinical care benefits to the NHS, more said they were worried about how the project was being implemented.

The research, conducted by Medix, an online resource for doctors, found whereas three years ago 47 per cent of doctors thought the programme was a good use of NHS resources (27 per cent thought not), this year only 17 per cent were in favour of it and 57 per cent against it. Only one per cent of respondents said it was a good or excellent programme.

Robin Guenier, chairman of Medix, told silicon.com: "When we started doing this survey, they [doctors] were quite enthusiastic. Now that's almost all gone but it's difficult to say why. I can guess that the biggest single complaint is that doctors haven't been consulted.

"If the government wants this to succeed, a major priority for the NHS is to look at what they do and consult the doctors."

The survey found that consultation between managers and doctors about the project had only improved slightly in three years - today five per cent said they felt they had adequate consultation compared with two per cent in 2003.

Of the 1,300 doctors surveyed, those who had heard of the changes ahead said they were "seriously concerned" about confidentiality.

Seventy-one per cent of GPs and 46 per cent of other doctors said patient records would be less secure once the programme comes into effect.

One doctor wrote in his response: "Huge waste of money and confidentiality likely to be seriously compromised. Does choice agenda extend to patients having right to not have their confidentiality breached? NHS email cumbersome. The biggest government IT disaster yet?"

Another added: "I am extremely concerned about the prospect of all patients' medical records being available on a national database without their explicit consent."

Few doctors actually knew anything about the programme services affecting them and many were confused over when they should start recording patient clinical details for the Care Records Service.

But others were more positive about the scheme. One GP wrote: "I believe that a common electronic record, with better security, will aid patient care across the country.

"The other schemes seem to me to be a waste of valuable resources with the possible exception of digital radiography."

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