Connecting for Health (CfH) wants all GP practices in England to decide whether they want to stick with their existing IT system or switch to another clinical system supplier by the end of the year.

The IT agency announced on Friday that it had signed agreements with five of the eight suppliers who are taking part in its GP Systems of Choice (GPSoC) initiative. The other three suppliers are expected to sign agreements within a month.

Kemi Adenubi, commercial programme director for CfH, said primary care trusts (PCTs) could now sign up to the framework on behalf of practices once they have decided whether they want to stick with their existing supplier or switch to another supplier on the GPSoC framework. Practices can also opt to move to a local service provider funded system outside the framework.

She told EHI Primary Care: “I would like the majority of practices to have migrated to the framework by the end of this year.”

Dr Gillian Braunold, CfH joint GP clinical lead, said she thought practices were only likely to move systems if there was a good reason for doing so.

“Why would anyone want to put themselves through the pain of migration unless there was a jolly good reason for doing so? On the other hand practices don’t now need to feel that they have to stick with their supplier through thick and thin.”

Documentation on the CfH website sets out the steps PCTs need to follow including nominating a GPSoC lead, agreeing the PCT’s strategy for GPSoC implementation, confirming choice of system with practices and preparing call-off agreements with relevant suppliers.

CfH has also published details of what level different systems have reached on the GPSoC framework, reflecting the functionality required by CfH and offered by systems. A system must be at least level 2 compliant before the practices can be included in a GPSoC call-off agreement.

EMIS LV and Vision 3, from INPS, are the only systems to have so far achieved level 3, which means they are able to deliver CfH’s requirements for GP2GP record transfer as well as meeting the requirements for up to level 2 which include compliance with Choose and Book and the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS). EMIS PCS, TPP’s SystmOne, iSoft’s Premiere system and Microtest’s systems are all level 2 compliant.

The remaining systems are on level 1 or level 0 but have plans to be level 2 compliant by the end of the year according to the CfH site. The new system supplier on the framework, Waveform, has a system in development which CfH say must be level 2 compliant within 12 months of signing the framework agreement.

Adenubi said those suppliers who did not currently meet the CfH current requirements for GP2GP at level 3 may not now do so since the strategic direction was for systems to move to the SNOMED coding system, already being implemented by EMIS and INPS in their new systems EMIS Web and Vision 4.

Suppliers will be able to be rewarded for meeting the level 4 requirement, which is where practices are using a CfH approved hosted system, without complying with level three.

So far no systems on the framework meet the CfH standards for hosted systems although Adenubi told EHI primary Care that she expected EMIS, INPS and TPP to do so in the next few months. The only CfH approved hosted system currently offered is the hosted system for Vision provided by LSP BT in London.

As soon as all the system suppliers have signed agreements CfH plans to publish the prices that have been agreed for each system. Suppliers were required to agree a price per practice, regardless of the size of practice, to enable easy comparison on costs.

Adenubi added: “When we were negotiating we didn’t have a great deal of leverage on price so by publishing the prices and making it comparable it made it a bit more competitive.”

The GPSoC website will also include information on suppliers’ development plans for their systems to enable practices to compare the plans for systems before making a choice about which system to opt for.

Dr Braunold said the information would be a bit like a Which? report for practices.

She added: “It will enable practices to see what suppliers say they are going to do and what they actually achieve.”

She told EHI Primary Care that service level agreements with suppliers would be monitored monthly and suppliers would face financial penalties if they failed to deliver.

“The system is much more open and transparent and really brings it into the 21st century,” she added.

Practices and PCTs will also be required to sign a PCT-practice agreement which is currently still in discussion with stakeholders although Adenubi said she hoped it would be available for use within three months.

The agreement will protect the practice’s right to a choice of system and ensure that the practice and PCT meet their obligations to each other in respect of the use and delivery of IM&T services.

Dr Braunold said there was an escalation agreement for practices who could not agree with their PCT about choice of system.


First five GPSoC suppliers signed

GPSoC guidance