CCGs look outside NHS for IT support
Almost 50% of clinical commissioning groups plan to use non-NHS organisations for some aspects of IT support after 2013, according to EHI Primary Care’s survey of CCGs.
The survey, which closed last month after receiving responses from around 25% of emerging CCGs, found that 47% expect to use non-NHS organisations for some aspects of infrastructure and systems support.
At the same time, 40% expect to go outside the NHS for information and analysis services.
However, only 10% of respondents predicted that they would use non-NHS organisations to meet all of their IT needs; with the rest suggesting that they would continue to use NHS bodies as well.
Several suggested that they might be heavily steered towards using NHS services and many said they were waiting for further guidance from the government.
One respondent said: “There seems to be an assumption that the current primary care trust will morph into the commissioning support unit as a done deal.” Another commented: “Very early days as yet, no clear pathway developed.”
Hugh Janes, manager of the Fareham and Gosport CCG in Hampshire, told EHI PC his PCT had set up a good information service and it looked as if it would continue to be used as a shared resource by local CCGs.
He added: “The governance in terms of what is going to be required from us is not going to be a light touch and so we felt we needed robust information systems to deal with that. We have a relatively good one locally, so it was purely pragmatic.”
Several CCGs suggested that they might look outside the NHS for IT support, including using local authority based IT services.
Dr Mike O’Neill, IT lead for the Nottingham West Consortium, said: “Someone who could provide a decent service from a hardware point of view could easily turn out to be outside the NHS.”
However, like others, Dr O’Neill suggested that CCGs might stick with the NHS to begin with and then begin to shop around once groups had become more firmly established.
The survey found that while 48% of CCGs expect to employ staff directly for infrastructure and GP clinical systems support, a significantly larger number - 61% - expect to employ their own staff for information and analysis services.
More than half of respondents (55%) were already working with their cluster PCT on IT and 26% said they were also working with other CCGs on IT. However, just 16% had already secured an in-house IT team.
Dr Paul Singer from the Luton Health Collaborative said one of the specifications of setting up the Luton CCG had been that it wanted to hold the reins on information and information support, but that it had not achieved this as the PCT still needed its own information support.
He added: “I would look elsewhere in the independent sector if I could see how we could move across from one service to another within the limited resources we have and if I had adequate information on who is going to provide me with the quality of service I want.”
The majority of survey respondents predicted an increase in the use of national IT applications such as the Electronic Prescription Service Release 2, GP2GP and Map of Medicine.
But only 29% expected the government’s e-booking service Choose and Book to be used more frequently in a world led by CCGs.
Andrew Neal, a practice based IT manager from Hampshire, said his concern was that support for Choose and Book would fall.
“My doctors now do all their referral letters with 10 to 15 minutes using Choose and Book and although it might not be perfect it makes things so much easier. My worry is that we are going to lose things that we benefit from.”
Just over one in five of those who took part in the survey (21%) said they hoped to be among the first tranche of CCGs to receive authorisation from the NHS Commissioning Board, while the majority (71%) predicted they would be authorised by April 2013.
Just under one in ten (8%) said they expected to still be operating as shadow consortia in April 2013.
Read more about EHI PC's exclusive survey of CCG IT and information needs and plans in the 'money worries' feature in Insight.
Last updated: 21 November 2011 16:45
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