Health Secretary announces major shake-up of GP IT systems

Outdated and “frustrating” IT systems in GP practices are to be replaced with modern technology under widespread changes announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.

The new GP IT Futures framework will see patient data moved to more modern cloud services to allow clinicians and patients to securely access what can be crucial, life-saving information in real time.

NHS England said it will also mean different systems, from GPs to ambulances, will be able to talk to each other for the first time.

Introducing the latest IT systems will make life easier for GPs by freeing up staff time and reducing unnecessary delays by allowing seamless, digitised flows of information between GP practices, hospitals and social care providers.

It said the move will also create an open, competitive market to encourage the best technology companies to invest in the NHS.

The current market is dominated by two main providers, which slows down innovation and traps GP practices in long-term contracts with systems that are not suited for the digital age, it added.

By 2023/24 it wants every patient in England to be able to access a GP services digitally, with practices able to offer online or video consultations.

Mr Hancock said: “Too often the IT used by GPs in the NHS – like other NHS technology – is out of date: it frustrates staff and patients alike, and doesn’t work well with other NHS systems.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.”

The plans build on Mr Hancock’s Tech Vision for the NHS.

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive at NHS Digital, which developed the new standards, 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.

“We’re very excited about the huge opportunities that will arise from improving the sophistication and quality of these services.”