GPs are at risk of a “postcode lottery” of IT support that will affect practice performance and ultimately patient care, a negotiator for the BMA’s GP Committee warns.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul says clinical commissioning groups should be able to review and validate their GP IT budget as figures released to EHI are not comparing “like with like”.

NHS England has announced that it is devolving an annual budget of £186m for GP IT to 211 CCGs, which formally came into being on Monday.

However, a document released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals a massive disparity in reported GP IT expenditure nationwide, which has left the organisation struggling to delegate the funding locally.

The‘GP IT Summary’ shows that Wiltshire PCT, which has a population of 450,000, spends just £225,000 annually or 50p per person.

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 NHS England showed that £4.2m was the PCT’s total IT support spend and just £940,000 of that was on GP IT.

Dr Nagpaul said it was important that CCGs had the opportunity to evaluate the figure reported for their area.

“These budgets have been presented to CCGs at a very late stage and what’s important is that they can evaluate and challenge them if they feel these budgets are not correct,” he said.

There was also a need to ensure that the figures were comparing “like with like” as it appeared that the reported budgets were not all referring to the same components of IT support.

“The last thing we need is a postcode lottery of provision of IT that will affect not just GP practices but ultimately patient care as well,” he added.

“All practices should be able to adequately avail themselves of the opportunities and IT services that they are entitled to.”

Dr Nagpaul said the first priority was to ensure continuity in levels of IT provision and support as CCGs should not go-live only to discover a sudden reduction in their level of IT funding or support.

“Having said that, there needs to be far greater clarity in the makeup of these budgets and whether they are accurate,” he said.

“Once budgets are identified it would be hard to justify gross disparities in resourcing,”

Once there was clarity regarding budgets, CCGs should be able to choose to use the resource in whatever way suited their needs.

“We have CCGs going live and being told they have devolved budgets and responsibilities for GP IT, but in reality for most this is an invisible amount that has been dropped back to CSUs,” Dr Nagpaul said.

“This highlights the inadequacy of the current arrangements and I suspect that given the fact that these figures have been calculated without proper consultation with CCGs, in the first year most (CCGs) are going to be forced into accepting CSU responsibility for provision of IT support.”

A statement from NHS England to EHI said that from 1 April, CSUs would 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,” it said.