Practice IT plans lack clarity, GPC warns

Crucial IT system support for practices is at risk because it remains unclear how much funding and responsibility will transfer to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from April, the GPC has warned.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: IT is vital part of GP care for patients
Dr Chaand Nagpaul: IT is vital part of GP care for patients

The NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) revealed this week that it will be accountable for primary care IT in future, but that GP IT responsibility and funding will transfer to CCGs.

CCGs will handle hardware, network services, support services and training for practices.

A statement from the NCB said: ‘CCGs as commissioners will need to own a locality informatics strategy as part of their role in driving forward transformation of services. Clinical systems and their provision are a vital part of this.’

However, the NCB statement added:  ‘Work is still ongoing with PCTs to determine the level of current spend on GP IT, after which decisions will be taken to agree the allocation of funds to CCGs in 2013/14.’

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul told GP: ‘It’s frustrating that at such a late stage before CCGs go live there is a lack of clarity on the boundaries for the remit of the NCB and CCGs. Clarity over responsibility and delivery are crucial because GP practices depend on IT as part of caring for patients on a daily basis.

‘As yet we do not know what additional funding will be made available to CCGs to carry out this delegated function.’

Dr Nagpaul warned that CCGs could lose sight of IT responsibility because they were busy ‘undergoing huge organisational development’.

He warned that decisions were yet to be taken about which staff from PCTs would need to move to CCGs to help them run IT services.

The government had suggested CCGs may be able to purchase IT support from ‘commissioning support services’ organisations, Dr Nagpaul said, but the organisations were yet to go live.

‘I am worried that if this is not sorted imminently, we run the risk of CCGs going live without being ready to take on this role,’ he said.

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