Published: 27/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5848 Page 23

I read HSJ's piece on the new GP contract ('Primary ignition', pages 15, 27 February) with interest.

The GP contract has huge potential. It provides greater scope for collaborative working between practices, across primary and secondary care, as well as social services. As a result it will equip GPs and primary care trusts with the flexibility to play to particular strengths and implement appropriate skill mixes to ease workload pressures and improve the delivery of care. However, in my view fundamental elements of the contract have been overlooked.

Collaborative working is key to the success of the GP contract, but in the health sector is often prevented because of disparate IT systems and inconsistent communication between PCT organisations.

Under the contract, a proportion of GPs' pay depends on the quality framework. The quality of primary care delivery will inevitably be defined by the quality and accuracy of information recorded onto IT systems and the efficiency of communications between those systems. Therefore appropriate systems, skills and training are imperative to the success of this initiative.

If the role of IT in such a project is overlooked, the danger is that it could fragment primary care, reduce its continuity and coordination, dent patient confidence and increase the cost base of PCTs.

Assuming that GPs vote to accept it, it is imperative that implementation of the GP contract in April takes into account the importance of the role of integrated IT systems and the training to support them. If not, the resources channelled into the initiative could be wasted.

Dr Lindsey Harris Torex Health Health IT supplier