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Health Secretary: Ambitious tech overhaul will make NHS most advanced health and care system in the world

Top technology companies will be challenged to develop new, innovative GP IT systems to empower patients to access more health services online and through their phones, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces today .

Top technology companies will be challenged to develop new, innovative GP IT systems to empower patients to access more health services online and through their phones, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces today.

In a speech at the King’s Fund Digital Health and Care Congress today, he announced the new GP IT Futures framework, which will create an open, competitive market to encourage the best technology companies to invest in the NHS. In practice, this will mean supplying cloud-based, modern systems that can share life-saving patient information seamlessly and securely - from GPs to hospitals and social care settings.

The Secretary of State will also use his speech to mark the two year anniversary since the global WannaCry attack which significantly impacted NHS IT systems. He will announce a package of measures including £150 million for projects to improve resilience, including further bolstering the capability of NHS Digital’s Data Security Centre.

Health Secretary Matt 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.”

Rather than introducing a top-down system that forces a one-size fits all approach, the changes will allow GPs to choose the best technologies to meet their needs, to improve efficiency and will 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 can slow down innovation by making it difficult for new suppliers to enter the market. The current system also relies on long-term contracts and we want to empower GPs to choose the best suppliers for their ever-changing needs.

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. We are looking forward to working with incumbent and new providers of these systems over the coming months to ensure that GPs have a choice of high quality systems providers.

“The government’s ongoing investment in NHS Digital’s Cyber Security Centre is enabling us to provide ever-stronger capabilities, systems and services to prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks against the health and care system.”

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

In the past three months alone, the NHS has prevented more than 21 million potential attacks - and new measures will help defend vital systems such as MRI scanners and refrigeration units storing organs and drugs.

The Health Secretary will outline in his speech a package including investing £150 million over three years to enhance capability, including of NHS Digital’s Data Security Centre to prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks in real time.  

The centre has prevented over 21 million potential cyber attacks over the past three months, as well as over 640 million phishing attempts. This includes five nation-wide attacks which were blocked shortly after being detected, protecting vital NHS systems such as MRI scanners, refrigeration units storing organs and drugs, as well as basic IT.

GP IT Futures is just one way the government is supporting the primary care sector and follows our NHS Long Term Plan commitment to back primary and community care with an extra £4.5 billion per year.

Alongside this, last year we saw a record 3,473 doctors recruited into GP training and we remain committed to delivering 5,000 more GPs, as well as 20,000 more health professionals, by 2023/24 within primary care networks to provide more care options for patients. This will help free up time for GPs to focus on those with the most complex needs.


Notes to editors

Case study of potential cyber attack thwarted

  • In February 2019, following a tip-off from an international partner, NHS Digital’s Cyber Security Operations Centre became aware of a vulnerability in the temperature controls systems of a refrigeration, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning products supplied to the NHS
  • The units could potentially be targeted, giving hackers control over their settings which could have had catastrophic consequences for organ, medicine, and other medical supply storage. 
  • Over 2,500 devices were discovered across 12 organisations – a vast majority of these devices were accessible without passwords.
  • Within one working day, NHS Digital contacted all the affected organisations and provided detailed technical and logical remediation guidance, which enabled the local teams to close this significant vulnerability effectively and efficiently.
  • There was no evidence of a cyber attack as a result.

The objectives of the GP IT Futures programme are:

  • Provide clinically safe and useful digital services and data services for patients and general practice, ensuring minimal disruption to care for citizens as new tech standards or suppliers are introduced;
  • Move to open, modern, cloud native architectures, with consistent technical and data standards;
  • Reform the commercial landscape of GP and primary care IT to provide an open, dynamic and competitive market;
  • Put NHS and patient users at the centre of the design, underpinned by user research and with regular iterations.

These are supported by four minimum strategic objectives for the programme to achieve: 

  • Real-time and secure access to data for patients and NHS users;
  • Allow interoperability between systems, enabling seamless, digitised workflows in and between care settings, in real time, underpinned by common standards and supporting new models of care and primary care networks;
  • Enable relevant, resilient and plural ecosystem of GP and primary care IT systems, which evolve with advances in technology and the NHS;
  • Allow data to be easily and consistently captured to enable comparison of activity and clinical outcomes.

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Last edited: 17 September 2020 10:28 am