GP contract throws focus on digital changes

New deal for 2018-19 includes plans to boost use of e-referrals and e-prescriptions, and pilot use of NHS 111 for appointments

NHS England has published a new GP contract, due to come into force next month, that includes an investment to encourage the use of digital tools in general practice.

It highlighted three elements of the contract, including a £10 million spend to support the full implementation of the e-Referral Service (e-RS) at every GP practice by October of this year.

The new contract says the latest implementation figure for e-RS is 62%, and that NHS England wants it to be 100% by October. The e-RS team will work with GPs and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to develop action plans and raise awareness.

Where a practice is struggling to use e-RS there will be a contractual requirement to agree a plan between the practice and local CCG to resolve any issues.

This comes shortly after Eve Roodhouse, interim executive director of NHS Digital, revealed that the new standard contract for hospital consultants would include a requirement to use e-RS to guarantee payment for treatments.

ePS commitment

Secondly, the GP contract includes a commitment to complete the roll out of the Electronic Prescription Service during 2018-19. This will involve an amendment of pharmaceutical regulations to cover all pharmacists and a patient awareness campaign, although the timing of the initial phase is still to be decided.

Thirdly, NHS England has agreed to work with the British Medical Council’s GPs’ Committee to widen the piloting of NHS 111 for directly booking GP appointments – but only at practices that want to take part.

Dr Arvind MadanDr Arvind Madan, NHS England director of primary care (pictured), said: “This new contract is positive news for patients and GPs, especially the focus on digital solutions. This will help GPs focus their time and resources on the areas that matter most to their patients.”

Overall, the new contract will involve an investment of £256.3 million to cover a wider range of plans over the next 12 months, up by 3.4% on this year, said NHS England.

Image from NHS England, Open Government Licence v3.0