OUTDATED and frustrating IT systems in GP practices in England will be replaced with modern technology as part of widespread changes announced by the health and social care secretary.
The GP IT Futures framework promises to create an open, competitive market to encourage the best technology companies to invest in the NHS. All systems will be required to meet minimum standards to ensure they can talk to each other across boundaries.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) criticised the current market for being "dominated by two main providers", saying this slows down innovation and "traps" GP practices in long-term contracts with systems that are "not suited to the digital age".
The framework suggests moving patient data to cloud-based services which would allow secure, real-time access to clinicians and patients. It also wants every patient in England to have the option of accessing GP services digitally, with practices offering online or video consultations.
The plan is designed to free up staff time and reduce delays by allowing "seamless, digitised flows of information between GP practices, hospitals and social care settings". Any digital providers who do not meet the new standards will not be used by the NHS and the government will seek to end existing non-compliant contracts.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: "Too often the IT used by GPs in the NHS – like other NHS technology – is out of date.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 framework will be overseen by NHS Digital and builds on Mr Hancock’s recently published tech vision for the NHS.