Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust is moving all its GP practices on to its network as part of a major initiative to improve data security.

So far, 56 of Wolverhampton’s GP practices have been moved across to the PCT network in a project that began in September 2008. The PCT expects to complete work at a final six GP practices by the end of January.

Tracey Kenny, IT business and operations manager, told EHI Primary Care that the work included the encryption of all PCs, USB encryption, laptop and other mobile device encryption, email encryption and the introduction of enhanced security policies.

She added: “We have brought the GPs into our network and believe we may be one of the first PCTs in the country to do that. The key benefit has been increased data security for all our practices.”

Kenny said the work was prompted by guidance from the Department of Health following well publicised public sector data losses.

She said the project has also involved the replacement of 46 clinical servers and gave the PCT remote control of GPs’ desktops.

Kenny acknoweldged there had been some concern from practices but said the PCT had worked with the local medical committee and professional executive committee as part of the consultation process.

Access to GPs’ systems was also governed by clauses added to the PCT/GP IT agreement.

Kenny added: “The most tangible benefit for the GPs is that its given them remote access to their systems, which many of them wanted.

"Although they have had to cope with changes, they are aware of the data security benefits. Before, we had 60 sites with 60 different set ups.”

Sue Thornill, practice manager at the Parkfield Medical Practice in Wolverhampton, which covers two sites and 12,300 patients, said the initiative had relieved the practice of data security worries.

Issues such as anti-virus protection were now handled centrally by the PCT, while the practice had easy access to its data which was backed up centrally.

She added: “Some practices did have concerns about what the project meant for access to sensitive data like GP income but we were not one of those.

"We feel we have benefited from it and that since the PCT now own our equipment it makes sense for them to take over responsibility for this as well.”