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GPs' claim over computers

PUBLISHED: 15:49 20 February 2008 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 July 2010

Health bosses have put thousands of patients' care at risk by failing to upgrade a defunct computer system, GPs claimed on Tuesday.

Doctors at Reepham's GP practice have said they have had to use totally obsolete computers, which stop them accessing patient's records, for months while waiting for a new system and upgrade.

Health bosses have put thousands of patients' care at risk by failing to upgrade a defunct computer system, GPs claimed on Tuesday.

Doctors at Reepham's GP practice have said they have had to use totally obsolete computers, which stop them accessing patient's records, for months while waiting for a new system and upgrade.

It has meant they could potentially miss important changes to patient care, prescriptions could be changed without them knowing and, if their aged machines crashed, they could lose all their patient's records with no back up, a practice doctor said.

Dr Carl Stuttard said one doctor could no longer use her computer at all and the first they heard about finally getting an upgrade, after waiting six months for Norfolk Primary Care (PCT) trust to act, was after the Times asked the PCT about the delays on Tuesday.

Nearly 10,000 people are registered at the Reepham practice and its partner surgery, the Hungate practice, at Aylsham.

Dr Stuttard said the PCT had failed in its duty of care to support the practice.

“They have failed to act for five or six months while we have found it increasingly impossible and dangerous to do our jobs because of a failing computer system, which they have known about,” he said.

“For the sake of a few PCs, we cannot do our daily work and we are seriously concerned we will not be able to care for our patients.”

The computers were bought in 2003 by the surgery and work on a server more than six years old. Mr Stuttard says the surgery cannot upgrade them itself because they are now owned by the PCT under the GPs' contract.

John Midgley, assistant director of operational and strategic IT at the PCT, said the Reepham surgery was about to get new IT equipment.

He said: “Norfolk PCT has made significant investment in updating IT equipment at GP surgeries right across Norfolk and will continue to do so.

“We are currently replacing some 500 PCs and 700 printers at practices throughout the county, for example, and we have been actively contacting GPs encouraging them to bid for funding for replacement equipment, be that desktops or servers.

“The Reepham practice has been informed that new equipment is on order and will be delivered shortly.”

Dr Ian Hume, chairman of Norfolk Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs, said there had been recent funding given to the PCT in order to carry out upgrades to computers at surgeries.

He said it should not be a problem for surgeries to bid for upgrades and encouraged them to do so and that it had not been a widespread problem as far as he knew.

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