Last reviewed 7 November 2023

NHS England has urged Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to contact all local GP practices who remain on analogue telephony systems, to remind them of the 15 December 2023 deadline for signing a digital telephony contract to ensure they receive funding for the transition within this financial year. 

The funding for making the transition to digital telephony, announced in the Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care in May, will not be available beyond the end of March 2024 and practices will need to bear the costs themselves. 

Funding is being distributed to ICBs based on the number of analogue practices in their area but if any practices fail to meet the mid-December deadline, NHS England said it will “adjust the allocated funding” accordingly.

Around 20% of GP practices nationally remain on analogue systems. Last month, Health Secretary Steve Barclay told MPs in the House of Commons that every GP practice in England was working towards digital telephony. NHS England’s letter dated 6 November confirmed that all remaining analogue practices had signed up “in principle” in July to make the transition to cloud-based digital telephony. 

National Primary Care Director Dr Amanda Doyle wrote: “To guarantee funding, eligible practices will need to have signed a digital telephony contract by 15 December 2023. This allows enough time for implementation and any installation work needed to go live before the end of March 2024 and ensures that funding is spent this financial year.

“Funding is not available for digital telephony beyond this financial year. Practices moving to digital telephony beyond these dates will need to bear the costs themselves. All practices will have to move by 2025, when the PSTN network will be switched off across the UK.”

The primary care recovery plan announced £240 million of funding for practices to “embrace latest technology”, with a focus on replacing old analogue phone systems.

An average of £60,000 per practice is being provided to support the transition, which includes any incumbent supplier costs as well as implementation costs such as purchasing digital headsets, according to the delivery plan. NHS England said with this significant investment, ICBs should be assured that primary care recovery funding is being used for its intended purpose; as additional support for primary care, with other primary care funding remaining in place and not being reduced.