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NHS England aims for GP IT systems integration by March 2016

Software suppliers offering apps and patient record access will be paired up with GP systems suppliers to offer more functionality

NHS England aims to give third-party access to GP IT systems for new software and app providers by the end of March 2016, according to its director of digital technology, Beverley Bryant.

NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) have been working to open up the GP Systems of Choice (GPSoC) framework – which funds IT systems for most GP practices in England – to third-party suppliers that provide a range of services such as apps, patient record access and transactional services. 

When the GPSoC contract was signed in 2014, four main suppliers – Emis, TPP, INPS and Microtest – all had to promise to provide interfaces to allow third-party suppliers to integrate with them through a pairing process.

Speaking at EHI Live, Bryant said the process has felt difficult, but that a lot of progress has been made.

“We now have 50 organisaitons in the pipeline working with our primary care system suppliers, covering a range of functionality,” she said.

“We think that by the end of March [2016], 20 of those software providers will be accredited, will have passed all the clinical validation, have technological validation, and will be available to start opening it up.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier in 2015 that the aim is to have a quarter of smartphone users accessing NHS services and patient records through apps by the end of the next financial year, something that could be provided by these software providers.

Access to the summary care record was achieved earlier in 2015, with 98% of patients now able to do so. However, at the moment, only 5% of patients have access to their full GP medical record, a number which Bryant said will increase drastically, with the aim of 95% by the end of March 2016.

“The summary of the record isn't that useful to patients, so the next stage is to give people access to the fully coded detailed record,” she said.

“We've agreed with the GP community that they still need an element of that record held back in free text format so they can make notes about that patient without that being made available.”

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Bryant added that NHS England is working on replacing its clinical triage platform with some new decision support software.

She also gave an update on the NHS e-Referral system that went live in June 2015 but had to be taken offline shortly after due to performance problems. The service went live with 33 known issues.

The system replaced the Choose and Book service, which was used to book hospital appointments in England. The newest version of the service – renamed Digital Elective Care – was recently rolled out.

Bryant said that, despite a difficult start, “we’re now in a position to start moving forward with it” and it will be opened up to the market in a similar way to the GPSoC framework.

“Building the application programming interfaces and building the interoperability into other software products is the way forward, so that primary care from a referral perspective, and secondary care from an appointment and scheduling perspective, can start to really have some flexibility of how they use technology to manage the care,” she said.

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