Wales is to go out to tender for GP software suppliers to comply with a national framework contract in a move mirroring developments in England.
A new strategy devised by the Wales Primary Care IM&T programme, GP Clinical Systems: A Strategic Framework, states that national minimum specification standards will also be developed which suppliers will be expected to meet as part of the procurement process.
Dr Ian Cox, programme manager for general medical services IM&T in Wales, said the plan was to begin Official Journal of European Union procurement by the end of December and publish the first version of the Welsh Minimum System Specification (MSS) early in the New Year.
He told EHI Primary Care that NHS Wales was working closely with the other home countries particularly England. He said the MSS would align with the standards in the new Common Assurance Process (CAP) currently being developed by NHS Connecting for Health as a replacement for RFA99, with adjustments to cover Wales-specific requirements. Dr Cox said that Wales has held discussions with the GP Systems of Choice project in England to discuss synergies to the proposed framework procurements.
Cox emphasised that in Wales it is not the intention to centrally fund new systems and that funding will still be via local health boards.
He added: “Ours is an enabling framework which will create a catalogue from which LHBs can choose, based on national terms and conditions and best value for money rather than the variety and diversity of contracts that exist now.”
The strategy says that existing GP practice contracts with suppliers will be gradually novated to the new framework contract once it is in place. A GP clinical systems Purchase Consortium is to be formed nationally with business decision-making powers to provide a corporate steer on the future investment and development priorities of GP clinical systems.
However the document makes it clear that the intention is not to move to a single GP solution for Wales in the way that current CfH plans are for GPs to eventually move to single local service provider systems.
It says competition and choice have been central to the success of GP systems to date and the intention is to maintain a choice of systems covering all major suppliers and new entrants to the market. Dr Cox said 95% of current GP practice systems are provided by the same three major players as in England, InPs, EMIS and iSOFT.
Other elements of the strategy include plans to evaluate the potential for hosting GP clinical systems remotely and to work closely with Informing Health Care, the over-arching IT programme for the NHS in Wales.
The strategy document also states that a structure will be set up to enable the continuation of training and data quality initiatives started by the ICT Foundation programme in Wales.
Dr Cox added: “The key thing is establishing the organisational structure that will take GP systems forward.”
The strategy has been endorsed by the British Medical Association’s Welsh General Practitioner Committee and the Royal College of General Practitioners.
GP Clinical Systems: A Strategic Framework [PDF, 2.7Mb]