A primary care IT user group has backed calls for an independent review of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), accusing the project of being unnecessarily secretive, failing to consult its members and producing systems that are not fit for purpose.
The iSoft User Group (Primary Care) has written to the Health Select Committee to throw its weight behind demands for an independent assessment of NPfIT made by 23 computer scientists in April.
Dr John Lockley, spokesperson for the group and a GP in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, said the group had decided to support calls for a review following a long period of dissatisfaction with the programme.
He told EHI Primary Care: “There’s been a lot of unhappiness and concerns expressed over the last two years at least.”
Dr Lockley said the group’s concerns focused on three areas. Firstly the group felt that members’ were not being adequately consulted over changes to primary care IT, secondly there were concerns with the way local service provider-hosting solutions for iSoft worked and thirdly the group feels there were major unresolved issues over patient confidentiality.
The user group also said it also believed there were “huge problems to be addressed” over confidentiality, security and control of patient information.
Dr Lockley said it was an iSoft user group member who had first raised concerns over the security of the personal demographics service (PDS) and said the group remained dissatisfied with assurances made to date on confidentiality.
Dr Lockley said he would have expected half a dozen members of each of the leading GP IT system user groups to be invited to regular consultation sessions with CfH. He said: “Instead those of us with a lot of experience in the medical IT world were being totally and utterly ignored.”
Dr Lockley added: “One of our members was specifically told by his PCT that he was not allowed to approach the LSP direct. This was someone who could give very cogent and mature advice.”
The user group has also criticised what it describes as “draconian confidentiality clauses” which it says have prevented those who do work for Connecting for Health from discussing any issues with colleagues.
Dr Lockley says problems raised two years ago over the LSP- hosted version of iSoft Synergy in the north east and eastern clusters run by Accenture have still not been resolved
Problems arose after it emerged that some third-party software used by iSoft practices could not be supported on the hosted version of Synergy including the data analysis program Contract+, and some of the functionality of the FrontDesk appointments system. The iSoft system also allows users to create their own programs, called Sophies, but Dr Lockley says none of the GP-created Sophies can also be supported on the hosted version.
He added: “iSoft users depend on external third party programs much more than the other offerings. These systems are vital to the way that iSoft users have developed their practices so it’s no wonder that very few people are taking up the offer of a hosted system.”
Dr Lockley added that a system that did not allow users to develop their own programs was cutting off a vital source of innovation for primary care IT in the future.
A spokesperson for iSoft told EHI Primary Care that the hosted Synergy Enterprise solution "has actually been developed to work with the third-party software suppliers mentioned".
The spokesperson added: "The release that will be deployed in Scotland as a hosted service does have Frontdesk appointments, the Contract+ QoF reporting tools and user definable and uploadable Sophies. iSOFT is also currently working with Docman to incorporate its scanning and document management system."
Accenture was unavailable for comment as this story went to press.