Connecting for Health has told PCTs to sign up GP practices for GP Systems of Choice without getting explicit consent from practices, in a change to original implementation plans.
The revised arrangements for the introduction of GPSoC mean all qualifying practices will be automatically included in a GPSoC ‘call off agreement’ unless they specifically request not to take part in the scheme.
The onus will be on practices to contact their PCT if they do not want to be included in the GPSoC contractual arrangements.
Previously, the original proposals for the introduction of GPSoC meant PCTs would have had to consult with each practice to get their agreement to be included in a call-off agreement, and to terminate any non-GPSoC contracts for the same services.
The GPSoC local call-off agreements supplement the national framework agreements in place between the GP system suppliers and the Department of Health. So far six suppliers, EMIS, Healthy Software, INPS, iSoft, Microtest and Seetec, have signed national framework agreements.
CfH has introduced the revised process, which has been agreed with the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee (GPC), to ensure as many practices as possible sign up to the deal by the end of March. PCTs will receive central funding to meet the cost of the annual software licences for practices that sign up to GPSoC but will have to continue to meet the cost themselves if practices opt-out.
A minority of practices have so far switched to GPSoC and there have been fears that GP practices may not be motivated to do so, since the main financial beneficiary of the deal will be PCTs. However, GP representatives have strongly advised practices to switch to GPSoC, which they argue guarantees IT system choice, as promised by the 2004 nGMS contract, as well as creating a level playing field between existing GP IT suppliers and local service providers (LSPs).
Last week Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC’s IT committee, wrote to local medical committees (LMCs) to set out the new arrangements.
In the letter he told LMCs: “In the event that a practice has taken a business decision not to be involved in GPSoC, the onus would be on the practice concerned to inform the PCT of its decision in writing. Technically, PCTs would still have a responsibility to fund those practices that decline to join up, but there will be increasing pressure to move onto GPSoC, or LSP (Local Service Provider), contracts due to financial pressures and compliance requirements. GPC cannot envisage circumstances in which a practice would take a business decision not to be involved in GPSoC, given that it delivers what the profession asked for in the 2003 negotiations.”
Dr Cundy's letter states that there will be no change to the system that the practice uses and described the switch as a ‘technical exercise’ for PCTs to secure the necessary funding for GPSoC and continue to fund their current obligations for practice IT support.
The letter adds: “GPC considers this to be a sensible and efficient method of proceeding on the basis that GPSoC delivers what the profession asked for in the 2003 negotiations.”
Some practices may not be switched to GPsoC because their system is not compliant with level 2 of GPSoC - the minimum requirement for inclusion in the scheme. Dr Cundy says such practices should contact their PCT to discuss their options, which would include checking if their supplier planned to move to a level 2 system or potentially planning a migration to a system that was level 2 compliant.
GP practices will still have to sign the PCT-practice agreement which sets out both parties responsibilities for provision of IM&T services. The agreement has now been approved and practices will be expected to sign the agreement by April 30.
In his letter Dr Cundy states: “Signing up by PCTs and practices will be undertaken subsequent to PCT sign up to the Call Off Agreement and CfH have set a deadline of the end of April 2008 for practices and PCTs to sign their agreements. Detailed guidance on the PCT-Practice Agreement will be issued shortly.”
He adds: “It is important to note that practices are still the data controller under GPSoC.”
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