New £450m framework will break GP IT systems duopoly, Hancock claims

Health secretary claims the GP IT Futures deal will break dominance of EMIS and TPP

The incoming £450m GP IT Futures framework will open up the market and break the dominance of the current landscape’s two main suppliers, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has claimed.

The new procurement vehicle replaces the expired GP Systems of Choice framework, which contained four principal suppliers of clinical IT systems: EMIS; TPP; Microtest; and INPS. The bulk of the market is currently held by the EMIS Web product, and the SystmOne software from TPP.

The government said that the dominance of two main suppliers “slows down innovation and traps GP practices in long-term contracts with systems that are not suited to the digital age”.

The GP IT Futures framework, for which a contract notice will be issued shortly, aims to “create an open, competitive market to encourage the best technology companies to invest in the NHS”. To gain a place on the deal, firms will have to meet interoperability standards developed by NHS Digital. Products will also need to be “continuously upgradable”.

“Any system that does not meet these standards will not be used by the NHS and the government will look to end contracts with providers that do not understand these principles for the health and care sector,” the government said.

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The new framework is intended to help GP practices move patient data into cloud environments. The government has also set a goal that, by 2024, all practices will be able to offer video or online consultations, as well other digital patient services.

Hancock said: “Too often the IT used by GPs in the NHS – like other NHS technology – is out of date.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 GP Systems of Choice framework reached the end of its four-year term last month. Until the GP IT Futures framework goes live – which is forecast to take place in December 2019 – suppliers on the outgoing deal will fulfil a “continuity period”, according to a roadmap document recently published by NHS Digital.

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive at NHS Digital, 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.”

She added: “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.”

Sam Trendall

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