The NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for making sure that pharmacists, dentists, opticians and other primary care contractors have access to national IT services, including the Electronic Prescription Service.

In guidance published just before the Christmas and New Year break, the NHS CB says it will commission access to services that will be developed by the ‘new’ Health and Social Care Information Centre, and provide appropriate support.

Specifically, it will be responsible for registering primary care contractors who need to access national IT systems including the EPS and NHSmail.

It will also be responsible for ‘stationery’ and administration services, such as tokens and password resets, and for advice on information governance and implementing dataset changes.

Primary care contractors will be responsible for the local implementation of national services, including training, hardware and network services.

They will be able to choose any IT organisation they want to do this work, including the new commissioning support units that are being set up.

The division of responsibilities is set out in ‘Securing excellence in IT services: operating model for community pharmacies, appliance contractors, dental practices and community optometry.”

This mirrors the publication of a similar model for the future of GP IT services, which was issued earlier in December. All the changes will take effect in April this year, when the latest reorganisation of the NHS takes effect.

The late publication of the guidance on the future of GP IT has caused considerable concern.

Experts interviewed by EHI Primary Care  have argued that the guidance puts new burdens on clinical commissioning groups for which they are neither prepared nor funded.

At the moment, support services and assurance processes for the use of national IT services are handled by primary care trusts, which will be abolished when the NHS CB and CCGs take on NHS commissioning.