Expenditure on GP IT varies enormously nationwide from between just 50p per head of population in Wiltshire to more than £10 in West Essex.
This massive disparity in spending, revealed in a Freedom of Information request to the NHS Commissioning Board, has left the board struggling to delegate GP IT funding to clinical commissioning groups.
However, enquiries by EHI reveal that for at least one primary care trust, the reported figure represents its entire IT budget rather than just money spent on GP IT.
The NHS CB announced it was devolving responsibility for funding a significant part of GP IT to CCGs last June.
In order to determine how much money CCGs should get, it completed a ‘primary care IT expenditure stocktake’ of current annual spend.
The NHS CB told EHI last month that a national GP IT budget of £186m had been set based on this stocktake.
How the money will be distributed between England’s 211 CCGs has not yet been confirmed.
This is apparently due to the massive disparities in reported figures by PCT.
EHI requested a copy of the figures via FoI.
The document released by the NHS CB, entitled GP IT Summary, reveals that West Essex PCT is the biggest spender on IT at £3m annually compared to a population of 286,000 – equaling more than £10 per patient.
This compares to Wiltshire PCT which has a population of 450,000, but spends just £225,000 annually, or 50p per person.
Oxfordshire PCT spends £4.9m a year and has a population of 624,000, which is nearly £8 per head of population.
Liverpool PCT is reported as spending £4.2m a year for a population of 450,000, equaling a spend of nearly £10 per patient.
However, a Liverpool CCG spokesperson said the documents submitted to the NHS CB showed that £4.2m was the PCT’s total IT support spend and just £940,000 of that was on GP IT.
GP IT spend includes funding for hardware, networks and IT support, but not software which is provided via the national GP Systems of Choice contract.
The hope was to have the new funding streams sorted by 1 April when CCGs take over commissioning local services.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a negotiator for the BMA’s GP Committee, previously told EHI the funding situation must be sorted out because it was undermining the ability for CCGs to choose their IT support.
“We need to get clarity on the resource per CCG otherwise CCGs will not be empowered to make their own choices about how GP IT should be deployed locally,” he said.
A statement from the NHS CB to EHI says that from 1 April, commissioning support units will be funded to provide GP IT through a memorandum of understanding between the groups and the units.
“Further work is underway to determine the wider CCG allocation, including the GP IT element, and work is progressing to complete this in due course,” the spokesperson said.