In the first shake-up to the market in over a decade, the Government is launching a procurement process for providers of new GP IT systems.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has claimed that the market is currently dominated by two main GP IT service providers and practices are often left “trapped in long-term contracts with systems that are not suited to the digital age”.

The Government said that the new GP IT Futures framework will open up competition to more providers and ensure more systems are available that are suited to “the digital age”.

NHS Digital Chief Executive Sarah Wilkinson said the “next generation of IT services for primary care” should “give more patients easy access to all key aspects of their medical record and provide the highest quality technology for use by GPs”.

The DHSC said it would introduce minimum technical requirements for systems to be able to “talk to each other securely” and be “continuously upgradable”. Different systems across primary and secondary care will be able to “talk to each other” securely for the first time, allowing clinicians and patients to access information quickly and easily. Systems that fail to meet these requirements will no longer be used by the NHS.

Under the terms of the new framework, providers would be required to hold patient records using cloud technology, and also comply with the DHSC’s intention for every patient in England to be able to access their GP through online or video consultation by 2023/24.

If GP practices’ providers do not meet the new requirements of the framework, they may be forced to switch systems.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced: “Too often the IT used by GPs in the NHS, like other NHS technology, is out of date.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.”

Last reviewed 8 January 2019