Skip to main content

Technology and innovation in General Practice: building the future

NHS Digital has launched the new Tech Innovation Framework to boost innovation and choice in the primary care IT market. Justine Brightwell, Head of the GP IT Futures programme at NHS Digital, explains more.
Photo of Justine Brightwell, author

We introduced the Tech Innovation Framework (TIF) in June 2022, but in reality, it’s been years in the making. The story begins back in 2018, when the GP IT Futures programme replaced GP Systems of Choice to supply IT systems and services to GP practices and associated organisations in England.

Digital data and technology have a hugely important role to play in supporting GPs and practice staff to provide care for patients. The systems provided through the GP IT Futures programme are used by more than 143,000 staff handling over 325 million patient consultations annually across England. This covers a total of 6,486 GP practices which serve over 61.8 million patients in total.

This scale means it is essential that primary care settings can access a choice of intuitive, efficient and innovative digital services and technology that meet their needs and allow them to focus on patient care. Through various frameworks and initiatives, GP IT Futures is not only providing this choice, but also connecting primary and secondary care organisations and enabling patients and clinicians to access and share data in real time.

The TIF represents the next step in our journey to delivering cloud-based, innovative technology systems. It is the third framework to launch under the Digital Care Services Catalogue, following GP IT Futures and the Digital First Online Consultation and Video Consultation framework. The buying catalogue allows health and care organisations to find, compare and order assured tools and systems from multiple frameworks and enables primary care providers to use approved suppliers that have been assured against a common set of standards.

Complementing the existing frameworks, the TIF covers core clinical GP systems and associated services, which means that suppliers wanting to join must deliver against six core functions of an electronic health record: patient information maintenance, appointments management, recording consultations, prescribing, referral management and resource management. Suppliers must also meet all the standards of the Digital Care Services Catalogue.


Responding to feedback

We incorporated feedback from suppliers and buyers into the design of the framework, so that the TIF can bring new and innovative systems to market while meeting clinical needs. It will enable new ways of working, support future modularisation of clinical IT systems and increase choice for buyers, commissioners and primary care settings, as well as providing a blueprint for the introduction of new common assurance standards for suppliers, within primary care and beyond.

The TIF allows for a less rigid definition of the foundation capabilities which IT systems must provide. Under the TIF, in addition to the core functions, we’ve specified new capabilities which will drive up higher standards. These include ensuring systems work over the public internet, are browser-based, offer a modern user experience and also use NHS Identity so staff only need to log in once.

This will enable suppliers to include functionality specifically tailored to the needs of their users, in addition to requirements that NHS Digital has developed from its own user research. TIF reflects a more inclusive approach to IT services development because suppliers can offer more innovative products, we can offer more variety on the NHS buying catalogue and systems reflect the latest user needs, driven by extensive user research.

Eight suppliers have now joined the new Tech Innovation Framework – EMIS Health, Eva Health Technologies, The Flame Lily Healthcare, MedicalDirector, John White PM, Medicus Health, Ouris Health [*Edit on 28 February 2023: Ouris is no longer part of the Tech Innovation Framework] and Oxford Digital Health. We’re working with these suppliers to develop technology systems with the aim of launching them in 2023 and 2024. This has the potential to result in the introduction of new core clinical GP systems for the first time in 25 years. Any new systems will be available alongside existing core systems.

Future plans

We’ll be collaborating with various early adopters in the new year as part of our ongoing development work. Our early adopters are a selection of primary care organisations who are interested in changing GP core clinical systems and who will be the first to work with the new set of suppliers.

For these early adopters, we are making funding available at each stage of the process – from discovery and preparation to deployment and service acceptance. This funding is designed to support them through the process of planning and executing the implementation of a brand-new core GP IT system.

Using new IT systems can bring a wide range of positive impacts, such as helping primary care to tackle health inequalities in the communities they serve, reducing workforce burden and improving patient outcomes. We want these new technology systems to showcase positive impacts in hub working, by enabling better collaboration between health and care agencies, as well as generating time efficiencies and data quality improvements. 

There will be a Supplier Expo event in February 2023 to give NHS organisations an early view of these future systems. They will have an opportunity to meet the suppliers and will be able to discover for themselves the transformational benefits of these innovations.  

More information about the Tech Innovation Framework is available on our website or you can contact [email protected].

First published by Public Sector Focus in December 2022.


Last edited: 28 February 2023 11:20 am