By Dr Stephen Miller. 6 June 2019
By Dr Stephen Miller. 6 June 2019
Procurement doesn’t usually ignite embers in the eyes of GPs and practice staff, but the new GP IT Futures Framework is genuinely lighting a fire in my belly as a practising GP and Clinical Director for Primary Care Technology at NHS Digital.
I fully support Helen Stokes-Lampard’s call on behalf of the RCGP to get the basics right first, and giving our GPs world class IT is a major opportunity that will be a building block for digital transformation across the whole NHS.
The Framework is a new set of rules, standards and technical capabilities that system suppliers will need to meet to supply GP systems from January 2020. The change is happening now because the current contract for GP systems ends on 31 December this year. But it isn’t the administrative reasons that are exciting. It is what the new Framework can deliver for us.
The changes will mean that GPs and the wider NHS will benefit from services which are modern, which can communicate across organisational and system boundaries and which offer a range of clinically assured tools and services designed to make it easier for us to do our jobs.
The idea is to ensure that GPs benefit from technology that works with them to support patients and that ensures that all clinicians have the information they need about a patient at the point of care. For example, if a patient had to visit an emergency clinic in a different part of the town or area in which they lived, the doctor they saw would still be able readily access their records.
However, I can already mentally see some of you throwing up your hands in horror about whether this move will mean new suppliers and new systems to learn. The truth is that right now we are going through the bidding process and we don’t know for certain which suppliers will end up on the Framework.
We are setting a high bar because we think the NHS deserves nothing less. Clinicians and frontline staff should have access to all of the information they need about a patient to deliver the best care; systems should meet open standards so that we can benefit from new innovations and so that smaller suppliers can enter the market; systems should all work together and communicate to make care partnerships easier and more effective.
But we also believe that both new and existing suppliers share our ideals and we want to work with them to take advantage of the benefits that new technology can bring.
But this change isn’t just about GPs. If our systems work well then this becomes a building block for digitisation across the entire NHS. Our interactions with patients provide rich data which provide a full picture of our patient’s health. By adhering to open, shared standards we can ensure that whichever system a hospital, community care or other GP practice uses, information about their patient is available to help them to make appropriate clinical decisions.
The standards used in our systems will pave the way for similar standards to be set across other systems and services. We really are at the beginning of something very exciting.
Over the next few months the team at NHS Digital will be assessing framework bids and will also be working with CCGs to support them as they buy from the new framework. We can promise you that nobody will be left alone to manage this process and for CCGs that do change to a new system, we will offer support and have plans in place to ensure that any transition is smooth and seamless.
If you want to know a bit more then you can find out on our website or you can speak with your CCG contact about the new Framework and what it means for your practice.
Dr Stephen Miller