GPs have begun a campaign to lobby MPs for the right to keep their Emis systems at the heart of the government’s £2.3bn national programme for IT in the NHS.
The doctors became concerned after software supplier Emis, whose systems are used by more than 50% of GPs, said it would not sign contracts with any of the local service providers (LSPs) that will be running systems for NHS organisations across England.
Emis said the national programme had imposed "intentionally Draconian terms on its LSPs and in turn required that these be passed on by LSPs to material sub-contractors".
It added, "In consequence, Emis has been required to accept uninsurable risks and indeterminate penalties, triggered by circumstances outside its control."
Emis’ managing director Tony Jones described the terms of the standard national programme sub-contractor contracts as "commercially untenable."
David Stables, medical director at Emis, said, "[The proposed LSP contracts] would result in a single, uniform system with an insufficient clinical focus on primary care."
Emis’ stance has raised questions about whether GPs will be allowed to continue to use Emis or will have to move data to another system. A number of GPs plan to write to their MPs to lobby for the retention of Emis.
An Emis users’ website listed points that doctors have made in letters to their MPs. One said, "A forced change to a system that is untried and tested is unlikely to succeed and will lead to disorganisation and confusion."
Another highlighted the fact that Emis was a tried and tested system that was the number one primary care system for the UK. "The NPfIT team has not given much thought to the training required to use any new system, let alone the disruption it will cause to practices and to patient care."
A national programme spokes-man said discussions were under way to resolve the situation and the programme was "committed to providing GPs with a choice of appropriate IT solutions".