Health secretary urged to work with GPs to improve NHS IT

The health secretary's pledge to improve and develop general practice IT is 'urgently needed' but must be backed with funding and a commitment to work with the profession, the BMA has said.

Warning over GP IT systems (Photo: iStock)

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock set out his vision for a more tech-driven NHS last week, promising an overhaul of IT systems in healthcare so that doctors, allied health professionals and patients ‘have easy access to the best tools that technology can give them’.

He promised a £200m fund to help revolutionise NHS technology, and said part of this would be used to help GP practices prepare for and adopt new computer systems.

But GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that although he welcomed Mr Hancock’s words, they must be supported by action.

General practice IT

‘We welcome the new secretary of state's focus on improving and developing IT for general practice. This is urgently needed - but the rhetoric, much of which we have heard before over a number of years, has to be backed by resource and a clear commitment to work with the profession who use the systems,’ he said.

‘We've seen time and time again over the last few months significant failures in basic IT systems with the resultant workload being passed on to practices, often without any support cover this,’ he added.

He pointed to problems with hospital IT systems that meant practices did not receive correspondence, and the failure of a risk tool.

‘We've also seen companies with deep pockets developing IT systems that most other practices would also like to be able to use for their benefit of their own patients, but there's no sign yet of NHS England or government providing this for them on a recurrent and sustainable basis.’

Health tech

Mr Hancock also revealed last week that he was setting up a health tech advisory board - chaired by Dr Ben Goldacre - which will come up with ideas for using technology to improve patient outcomes and experiences and to help NHS staff, as well as highlighting priorities and sharing best practice.

On the same day it was announced that patients in five pilot sites will be able to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and check medical records through an NHS app from next month, and that the app would be available nationally by the end of the year.

Earlier this year GP leaders said that rolling out the NHS app across all GP practices in England by the end of 2018 was not possible.

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