NHS £10m in centralised contracts offer GPs video consultation services

Procurement documents reveal deal signed via framework covers second half of 2021

Credit: George Hodan/Public domain

NHS England agreed a £3.5m deal offering GP surgeries across the country a centralised pool of software licences allowing them to conduct remote consultations.

Newly published procurement information reveals that, over the summer, the national organisation signed a contract with specialist tech firms EMIS, iPlato Healthcare, and MyMed Ltd – which trades under the name Q doctor. The first two deals came into effect on 1 April and run until 31 December while, in the latter case, the contract applies from 18 June 2021 until 31 January 2022, according to notices newly published online.

The deals were awarded as call-off contracts via the Digital First online consultation and video consultation (DFOCVC) framework launched earlier this year. The procurement vehicle brings together elements of the GP IT Futures framework for general practice IT systems alongside a dynamic purchasing system arrangement for video consulting launched rapidly at the start of the coronavirus crisis to enable surgeries to make urgent investments in conferencing tools.

The ability for individual practices and clinical commissioning groups to make purchases has been supplemented by NHS England’s deal with EMIS, iPlato and Q doctor, which the contract award notices said reflected a pressing requirement to give doctors swift access to remote platforms.

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“Due to the risks involved in the Covid-19 pandemic [in] bringing people into GP surgeries, there was an urgent need to provide general practice with access to remote consulting software such as video consultations,” they added.

The DFOCVC framework is scheduled to run until 31 March 2024, and is open for use by all GPs and other primary care providers, as well as hospitals and secondary-care settings, community pharmacies, urgent-care centres, ambulance trusts, optometrists, and dentists.

Almost 40 suppliers of online and video consultation tools are featured – including eConsult Health, which acquired Q doctor in May.

According to the contract notice: “The framework will support NHS England in its delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan commitment that every patient will have the right to be offered digital-first primary care by 2023/2024. The framework will build on from the online consultation programme, which was originally introduced under the GP Forward View and which has been expanded under NHS England’s Dynamic Purchasing system and through digital care services GPIT futures framework. Alignment of the new framework within digital care services catalogue will support NHS England’s ambition to have a sole procurement route for primary care, which will provide a unified set of centrally understood standards.”


Sam Trendall

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