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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
'No confidence' in new NHS computer
This week's programme reveals details of a survey of doctors which shows that three quarters of those questioned say they're not confident that the new 6bn computer system for the NHS will deliver value for money.

The survey was carried out for File on 4 as part of an investigation into progress so far on what is the biggest civil computer project in the world.

Computer keyboard
Link GP surgeries and hospitals across England
Doctors could access records for 50 million patients
Patients could book appointments online
Scheduled to be complete by 2010

Hospitals, GPs' surgeries, and mental health services across England are to be linked and patients' records will all be made available online.

But, as Gerry Northam discovers, there are still serious reservations amongst doctors.

Among those interviewed for the programme is Dr Nigel de Kare Silver, a GP in Brent who says he will have to scrap a computer system that is already in use in his practice and replace it with a system that he thinks is less effective:

"It looks like it will be a step backwards several years in terms of the facilities and features that we have on current software" says Dr de Kare Silver.

"I am very worried about it being dangerous for patients."

In the File on 4 survey more than 90% of doctors questioned said either they had not been adequately consulted or that they had not been consulted at all, about the new system. Only 3% of those questions said they thought it would deliver value for money.

The National Audit office is currently investigating the project.

Cost concerns

Last week there were predictions that costs could rise from the current figure of 6bn to as much as 31bn over the next 10 years - though this was denied by the Health Minister, John Hutton.

Interviewed for File on 4, the Director General for IT in the NHS, Richard Granger, also dismissed the idea that expenditure would spiral out of control:

"We already spend a billion pounds a year on IT," he says. "The project is fully funded, the money is there and we are on budget."

However, the Conservative MP Richard Bacon, who is a member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, says he believes the project is suffering from "systemic failure".

He says the lesson from previous Government IT failures is that there was not enough involvement from those who use the system - and he's worried in this case about the lack of effective consultation with clinicians:

"It is a recipe for continuing failure and for continuing to fail to learn the lessons that are all around us".

File on 4 was broadcast on Radio 4 on Tuesday 19 October at 2000 BST and repeated at 1700 BST on Sunday 24 October.

Hyper File on 4




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