GPs in Scotland have warned the Scottish Executive that the official Scotland-wide IT system for general practice, GPASS, is failing doctors.

The warning came when Scottish doctors recently debated and passed a motion at their annual conference which claimed that GPASS (the General Practice Administration System), a system for managing general practice, is "continuing to fail GPs".

A second part to the motion calling for the system to be abandoned in favor of superior commercial software, was defeated.

Designed to solve problems of interoperability between different GP practices GPASS has been provided ‘free’ to all Scottish GPs by the Scottish Executive. It is installed in approximately 890 Scottish GP practices.  The first development of GPASS dates backto 1985.

According to the Scotsman newspaper one speaker at the BMA conference described the GPASS system as "dangerous" for failing to provide a full medical history, omitting vital details such as prescriptions and a patient’s allergy to drugs.

Dr Peter Wiggins, a GP in Glasgow, told the Scotsman: "It’s difficult to get an overview of the patient. You just don’t have all the facts in front of you. It’s like giving us a make-do word processor when we need state-of-the-art equipment.

"The Executive has spent millions on this and we don’t feel it’s fit for use."

Although the GPASS computer system is free, many GPs are so disillusioned they have chosen to pay for a different model themselves. It is understood that GPASS was abandoned in Northern Ireland, and doctors in England and Wales have also refused to take it on.

GPASS is used by approximately 85% of Scottish GPs to manage their patient information. The system holds details on patient records, prescribing information and is being adapted to meet the requirements of the quality and outcomes framework in the new GP contract.

Dr Stuart Scott, chairman of the Scottish GP committee’s IT sub-committee said:

"A significant majority of GPs in Scotland use the GPASS system to manage their patient information. However, since its introduction GPs have tried to work constructively to point out where there are problems to ensure that the system meets their needs. However, after two years, their patience is being tested and there has been little improvement."

Dr Scott stressed that the new GP contract relies on good information technology and that unless GPs believe that the system they are using is working for them then they will look for an alternative.  "I hope that the Scottish Executive take on board the concerns of doctors and offer a solution to the current problems."