Health Minister John Hutton has announced that an extra £30 million is to be made available to ensure general practice IT systems are ready for the implementation of the new GP contracts this April.

A Department of Health (DoH) Spokesperson told E-Health Insider that the new money had been made available following representations from Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).  The extra investment is in addition to the £20m already committed to primary care IT in England under the new contract agreement.

The DoH spokesperson told EHI that the extra £30 million related to enabling implementation of the new GMS contract rather than tied to the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).  "A lot of PCTs had told us that the original £20 million was not enough money for maintenance and upgrades," added the spokesperson.

The extra £30 million will provide specific funding for the replacement of pre-RFA99 "legacy" systems, implementation of systems for non-computerised practices and general funding for agreed major upgrades.  It is variously estimated that between 200 and 400 of the 8,000 GP practices in England need entirely new systems 

Mr Hutton said: "We are on course to see the new GMS contracts implemented by April and this is good news for GPs and patients. The extra money we are making available for IT will play an important part in that on-going implementation process.

"This additional funding will allow Primary Care Trusts the flexibility to meet the full costs of maintenance and upgrades, and also to make absolutely sure that all practices have systems that can support the new contract."

All GPs should now be able to install the IT systems needed to process the clinical data that is central to the new quality-based contracts.

Mr Hutton will be writing to GPs next week to inform them of how much extra IT funding their PCT has been allocated.