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NHS Digital launches £9.5m innovation framework for GPs and commissioning groups

Tech companies that can enable 'new ways of working' for doctors are being invited to bid for NHS contracts.

By Sophia Waterfield

Tech companies can bid to provide digital services to meet the needs of healthcare professionals as part of a new NHS GP tech innovation framework. NHS Digital says that any organisation can tender to become part of the framework, which has been designed “to encourage new ways of working” for doctors and other primary healthcare professionals. Up to £9.5m is up for grabs as part of the framework.

NHS tech innovation framework
GPs and commission groups will have access to digital services that will help them deliver better care for patients. (Photo by Kobus Louw/iStock)

Potential suppliers will be able to submit a tender for the tech innovation framework if they can provide a solution that delivers at least six core functions of an electronic health record. These are: patient information maintenance, appointments management, recording consultations, prescribing, referral management and resource management.

GPs and commissioning groups will be able to access these technologies so they can deliver “better care and work effectively”, says NHS Digital. This is the third framework to launch under the Digital Care Services Catalogue and will run in parallel to GPIT Futures and Digital First Online Consultation and Video Consultation frameworks.

The new framework will not impact on the services provided by current GP system suppliers, according to the invite to tender. Suppliers can apply from August 15.

How will the tech innovation framework help GPs?

According to NHS Digital, this new framework will help expand the core clinical systems available in the GP IT market by encouraging innovation and moving towards a open cloud-native architecture with “consistent technical and data standards”. NHS Digital is also hoping that this framework will create a more “competitive market to improve quality and safety for both staff and patients”.

By using public cloud-based solutions, GPs and commissioning groups can offer significant usability and accessibility improvements, says the tender invitation, making systems “easy to use, intuitive and compliant with latest standards”. The NHS hopes to take advantage of the benefits of the consumption model deployed by cloud providers, where resources can be scaled up and down quickly depending on demand. This will provide better value for money, the tender document says.

“The proposed framework will enable NHS Digital to publish new standards, pursue new technologies within the foundation EPR solutions environment; and increase solution diversity and innovation, ultimately giving GPs more choice,” the invitation says.

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Commissioning groups would also have a wider choice of solutions, including those built to new standards that are focused on user-centred design, interoperate more easily and improve access to patient data. 

NHS innovation framework supports DDaT in healthcare vision

The tech innovation framework forms part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) vision for bringing digital, data and technology (DDaT) into the health system.

In its policy paper, ‘The future of healthcare: our vision for digital, data and technology in health and care’, the government laid out its priorities in modernising the systems within the NHS and social care. These are infrastructure, digital services, innovation and skills and culture. The tech innovation framework falls under digital services.

Published in October 2018, DHSC said that while next-generation technologies are changing lives on a daily basis, it admitted that the online services, basic IT and clinical tools in health and care “is far behind where it needs to be”. It has subsequently laid out its vision, a five-year framework for GP contract reform, relating to the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019.

Read more: Patients need ‘education’ on NHS data sharing with Big Tech

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