Doctors at the Scottish BMA conference have expressed concerns over the Scottish government’s decision to cut £5m from the e-health budget earlier this year.
The move, which was announced by the government in February in order to recruit more police officers, has angered Scottish doctors, who say it could endanger patients.
Dr Stuart Scott, chairman of the Scottish GP committee’s IT sub-committee, told E-Health Insider: “We are concerned that this cut will mean that things won’t get done, which need to be done in Scotland in the area of e-health. The lack of modern healthcare IT could raise questions over if Scottish patients are getting the service they deserve or need.”
Dr Scott said they were eagerly awaiting the release of the new Scottish e-health strategy plan, which will determine how money is spent and when systems are deployed.
“Less than 1% of the NHS Scotland budget is currently spent on e-health and we are hoping the new strategy will demonstrate how money will be allocated, what will be deployed and when.
“To date we have had no satisfactory answers to these questions, and we are still waiting for decisions on core products such as the integrated primary and community care systems to replace GPASS,” he said.
A long debate at the conference in Clydebank discussed whether the e-health budget cuts could be justified.
Dr Ian Thompson, an Aberdeen GP, said better technology in surgeries could improve patient safety.
He said: “The problem is if you ask the person in the street, do you want money spent on computers or X-ray technology or policemen, what will they say? It is not a very sexy thing, but a lot of it does improve patient safety.”
However, a Scottish government spokeswoman responded: “There will be no reduction in the e-health programme and the allegation that patient safety will be affected by a budget readjustment is untrue. Savings will be made, but without cutting e-health’s services to patients.”
Concerns were also raised at the conference on the reliability of the new national cervical cytology screening system for Scotland.
GPs say labels printed by the system identifying samples are being destroyed in transit by leaking pots, resulting in confusion when the samples arrive and hundreds of patients having to be recalled for new samples.
Dr Scott said: “This system is still performing very poorly in some parts of the country, and with labels being unreadable, it means women are being recalled for what should be a straightforward service.
“Certainly, these must be sorted before the system can be fully integrated on a national scale, which is already considerably delayed. 100% certainty of accuracy and quality data needs to be assured.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the National Services Division (NSD), which co-ordinates the screening programme, say new labels are to be made available to GP practices and hospitals.
Last year, EHI Primary Care reported that the system was the subject of security concerns which led to GPs calling for a halt to its roll-out.