Plans unveiled for new GP IT systems

Author: Adrian O'Dowd
Plans unveiled for new GP IT systems

The government is challenging the top technology companies to develop new, innovative GP IT systems that will empower patients to access more health services online and through their phones.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday the new GP IT Futures framework, which will create an open, competitive market to encourage the best technology companies to invest in the NHS.

Mr Hancock, speaking at The King’s Fund Digital Health and Care Congress yesterday in London, announced the new framework, which, in practice, will mean supplying cloud-based, modern systems that can share patient information seamlessly and securely – from GPs to hospitals and social care settings.

Rather than introducing a top-down system that forces a one-size fits all approach, the government said changes would allow GPs to choose the best technologies to meet their needs, to improve efficiency and would enable more patients to take control of their care, including through accessing digital services such as video consultations.

The current market is dominated by two main providers, which the government said can slow down innovation by making it difficult for new suppliers to enter the market.

The current system also relied on long-term contracts and the Department wanted to empower GPs to choose the best suppliers for their changing needs.

Mr Hancock said: “I believe it should be as easy for a GP surgery to switch IT provider as it is for a small business to switch bank accounts.

“Under the new contract, providers will have to follow our standards on interoperability and data access. Systems will need to be continuously upgradeable. Patient data will need to be securely hosted in the cloud.

“Sick patients should not be having to explain ‘why are you here’ for the umpteenth time every time they meet a new clinician, or carting round bulging folders of notes from appointment to appointment.

“Your medical records should be accessible from wherever you are the NHS, just as you can get to your emails from any device.”

Mr Hancock also used his speech to mark the two year anniversary since the global WannaCry attack which significantly impacted NHS IT systems.

The global WannaCry attack, which affected more than 100,000 computers in 100 countries, caused the NHS to cancel over 20,000 appointments.

Mr Hancock announced a package of measures including £150m for projects to improve resilience, including further bolstering the capability of NHS Digital’s Data Security Centre.

Dr Simon Eccles, NHS England’s chief clinical information officer for health and care, said: “NHS England is pushing ahead with new approaches to improve care for patients and ease the burden on staff, from digital access to GPs to virtual outpatient services to the right information being available to clinicians when they need it.

“This new deal will ensure that our GPs, the front door to the NHS, are supported by the very best available technology so they can continue to provide world class care to everyone.”

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive at NHS Digital said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring GPs have access to high quality technology systems and services, and that those systems also comply with NHS data standards and integrate effectively with the rest of the health and care system, so that hospitals and GPs have a full view of a patient’s record and can care for them safely and efficiently.”

NHS Digital has issued an invitation to tender for existing and new suppliers to deliver the new IT systems framework for primary care, which has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union.