Plans to shake-up GP practice IT systems

Author: Adrian O'Dowd
Plans to shake-up GP practice IT systems
The government has started the process of procuring for new providers of GP practice IT systems, promising to replace what it calls the currently outdated and frustrating systems in practices.

The GP IT Futures framework will create an open, competitive market to encourage the best technology companies to invest in the NHS, said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The framework was announced in August of last year but the process of procurement begins this month, led by NHS Digital.

Currently, GP practices can choose to use TPP SystmOne, EMIS Web, InPS Vision or Microtest Evolution – but the market is dominated by EMIS Web or SystmOne. The current approach, said the DHSC, slowed down innovation and trapped GP practices in long-term contracts with systems that were not suited to the digital age.

Under the new framework, all systems will be required to meet minimum standards to ensure they can talk to each other across boundaries.

The framework will look at how patient data will be moved to modern cloud services to allow clinicians and patients to securely access crucial, life-saving information in real time.

By 2023 to 2024, the government wants every patient in England to be able to access GP services digitally, with practices able to offer online or video consultations.

Such changes would free up staff time and reduce delays by allowing seamless, digitised flows of information between GP practices, hospitals and social care settings.

New standards, developed by NHS Digital, will introduce minimum technical requirements so systems can talk to each other securely and are continuously upgradable.

Any system not meeting these standards would not be used by the NHS, said the DHSC, and the government would look to end contracts with providers that did not understand these principles for the health and care sector.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Too often the IT used by GPs in the NHS – like other NHS technology – is out of date. It frustrates staff and patients alike, and doesn’t work well with other NHS systems. This must change.

“I love the NHS and want to build it to be the most advanced health and care system in the world – so we have to develop a culture of enterprise in the health service to allow the best technology to flourish.

“I want to empower the country’s best minds to develop new solutions to make things better for patients, make things better for staff, and make our NHS the very best it can be.”

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive at NHS Digital, said: “The next generation of IT services for primary care must give more patients easy access to all key aspects of their medical record and provide the highest quality technology for use by GPs. They must also comply with our technology standards to ensure that we can integrate patient records across primary care, secondary care and social care.

“In addition, we intend to strengthen quality controls and service standards, and dramatically improve the ease with which GPs can migrate from one supplier to another.

“We are committed to working with existing and new suppliers to deliver these extended capabilities for the benefit of GPs and patients.”