BMA advises GPs not to share cloud-based telephony call data with NHSE

  • 4 July 2024
BMA advises GPs not to share cloud-based telephony call data with NHSE
A female doctor sits at her desk and is phoning a patient with the good news from the results that she is reading from her computer screen . She is wearing a shirt with polled up sleeves and stethoscope and seems happy in her work . She is lit by bright window light and is wearing glasses , and is smiling confidently .

The British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP Committee (GPC) has warned that NHS England could use cloud-based telephony data to performance manage GP practices.

GP practices were required to provide digital telephony data on eight metrics through a national data extraction following the amendment of the 2024/25 GP contract, for use by NHSE, integrated care boards (ICBs), and primary care networks (PCNs).

However, the GPC has raised concerns that the data could be used to identify practices who are underperforming and has advised practices not to share call volume data with NHSE, according to a report in Pulse.

Speaking an online roadshow event in July 2024, Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England, said: “This year, they’re going to want to use the metrics, from your digital telephony to performance manage you.

“Those eight core metrics will look at what time you open and what time you close.

“If you’re closing on a traditional half day, or you’re closing for an hour for lunch, all of these things you’ll be performance managed against”.

She added: “Don’t declare your compliance that you’re happy to share your data metrics before they [NHSE] make you do so.”

In response, a spokesperson for NHS England said: “It is inaccurate to say NHS England will performance manage practices using digital telephony data – access to digital telephony data is about supporting general practice teams and improving patient experience of contacting their practice.

“The data obtained from digital telephony enables practices to see a single view of all requests, whether it’s online, phone or walk-in, so they can assess and stream patients to the most appropriate care, such as an appointment or another local service.

“This will also enable practices and local, regional and national NHS teams, for the first time, to get a better, fuller picture of the demand that practices are experiencing, allowing teams to identify ways to better manage demand and improve care in the future.”

In April 2024, upgraded phone technology was rolled out across the country, with the aim of enabling more patients to get through to their GP surgery for an appointment.

At the time, the BMA warned that new cloud-based telephony systems are significantly driving up costs for practices.

NHSE confirmed in June 2024 that its £300 million digital pathways framework had been cancelled, following delays caused by a legal claim.

The framework was aimed at driving a rapid move to a modern general practice model by connecting ICBs with approved suppliers for digital GP tools for messaging, consultations and care navigation.

Modern general practice is an approach set out in the ‘Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care‘, published in May 2023, which aims to use better digital telephony, digital online contact tools and improved workflows to improve patient access to GPs.

NHSE announced funding of £48m for ICBs, to fund capabilities relating to digital pathways and demand and capacity tools for GPs in April 2024 under the  ‘Digital pathways tools guidance and next steps for 2024/ 2025‘.

Digital Health News approached the BMA for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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