by Dr Murray Ellender

All systems go?

NHS England’s GP Forward View promised £45m over the next three years to help GP practices purchase online consultation systems. But how, when and on exactly what would they be able to spend the money? The good news is that the long-awaited specification and guidance could be released very soon.

Back in January of this year – if you can remember a time before the latest bout of election madness – we were led to believe that NHS England was about to release guidelines that would help CCGs understand what was covered by the term ‘online consultation’ when it came to the GP Forward View funding. This would help GPs and CCGs apply for some of the £45m allocated for technology to help transform patients’ experience of primary care.

“£45m allocated for technology to help transform patients’ experience of primary care.”

The funding was due to be released in April – but there has been a delay, and we don’t know yet exactly when the first tranche will be available. But the good news is that our sources tell us the specification and guidance is due to be issued in July.

Transformative

There has been a lot of interest in eConsult this year, with many GPs and CCG board members asking us about it, interacting with us at all the events we’ve attended, responding positively to our press coverage and reading our blog articles. The medical community really ‘gets’ online consulting now. But without the guidelines on what they can spend the funding on, they don’t know what to apply for. And if they don’t apply for funding, they are much less likely to be able to implement this transformative software.

“The medical community really ‘gets’ online consulting now.”

I know from talking to GP colleagues around the country how frustrating it is that pots of money are just sitting there, waiting to be spent – funds that have been earmarked for the use of technology to help GPs manage their time better and patients have access to the healthcare they need, when they need it.

Let’s hope this new guidance from NHS England appears in July, and delivers on the promise to ensure practices and CCGs know that the money is available and how to draw it down. Then they can start to have more in-depth conversations with solutions providers like eConsult, with a view to making decisions and implementing the technology they so desperately need.