Headlines: October 6th, 2000

The implementation of a recent Scottish Office initiative to link 99% of Scottish general practices to NHSNet is called into question in this week’s British Medical Journal. The study provides useful lessons for those embarking on a similar exercise in England and Wales.Madeleine Willmot, Clinical Effectiveness Coordinator at a health board in Stirling has analysed the experience, with colleagues, and found that thought the vast majority of practices were successfully hooked up, there were serious problems with access, training and costs.

NHSNet is an electronic network for health care professionals across Britain, which is gradually incorporating all NHS outlets across England, Scotland and Wales.

According to the analysis, poor access discouraged people from using NHSNet in 19% of practices and caused 38% of practices to restrict its use. Some practices paid nothing for use, whereas others had to pay for calls, and it is thought this could be a deterrent as charges rise.

Advance training focused on administration rather than use of the internet and did not target healthcare professionals. Practices in areas that provided more detailed internet training locally were more likely to make regular use of NHSnet, emphasising the importance of targeting training.

The analysts conclude that there are lessons to be learned during implementation in England and Wales, about costs, and about education in the system’s use if it is to be welcomed by staff.