Uncertainty about future funding for NHS IT and the future direction of NHS informatics are the biggest IT concerns for clinical commissioning groups, according to an exclusive survey by EHI Primary Care.

Nearly a third of those who took part in the poll (29%) said future funding for NHS IT as a whole was their major concern, 19% were worried about uncertainty over the future direction of NHS informatics, and 12% said they were mainly concerned about funding for GP systems.

On respondent said “the NHS must make a decision about where IT will sit along with its resources” and another said their greatest concern was that “responsibility to fund GP IT national initiatives will be passed to local organisations without any additional funding.”

Dr David Wrigley, board member of Lancaster, Morecambe, Carnforth and Garstang Practice Based Commissioning Consortium, and member of the BMA GP committee’s IT sub-committee, said the Department of Health needed to make some rapid decisions on IT.

He added: “We need to know as soon as possible where responsibility will lie for IT and what funding there will be. We can’t afford to wait another six months to find that out.”

Dr Wrigley said he hoped that the GP Systems of Choice initiative would continue so that GPs would have a choice of system. He wanted to see responsibility for GPSoC passed to CCGs, which he said would act in the best interests of local practices.

The EHI Primary Care survey ran throughout April and attracted more than 90 responses from GPs, emerging CCG chairs, board members, IM&T leads and others involved in commissioning.

It found that while just over half were either very confident (3%), confident (7%) or fairly confident (43%) that they would have the funding to complete their priority IT projects, a further 46% were not confident.

Key areas for investment were identified as clinical dashboards, which 65% of respondents said they planned to invest in over the next three years, followed by IT infrastructure (60%) and tools to share information with secondary care (58%).

One respondent said: “Joined-upness – or, to use the correct term, interconnectivity and interoperability – to enable sharing of patient data along pathways for long term conditions is the most critical challenge we face.”

The vast majority of survey respondents said they hoped IT would help them provide better clinical information for GPs over the next three to five years (82%) as well as enabling more information sharing (70%), better analysis of demands and trends (67%) and reduced admissions to hospitals (67%).

One respondent said that there was a “huge need for informatics as a commissioner” and another argued that incentives to improve data quality were needed.

Respondents were divided about continued use of some of the national applications developed by NHS Connecting for Health.

The vast majority predicted an increase use of the Electronic Prescription Service Release 2 over the next three years (75%) and increased use of GP2GP electronic record transfer (62%).

But there was less enthusiasm for Choose and Book and the government’s patient portal HealthSpace; which the government announced it would be scrapping after the survey closed. On Choose and Book, 36% predicted use would increase but 26% predicted a fall in usage.

Although only 20% of respondents reported that their CCG had appointed a clinical champion for IT and information projects, 72% felt their CCG would benefit from a chief clinical information officer, a role promoted by the EHI CCIO Campaign and the new CCIO Leaders Network.

Read more about the survey in Insight today and tomorrow.