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How will the GP Forward View improve technology in your practice?


We understand that GP practices are currently facing a number of challenges –  the drive to modernise the primary care estate, workforce shortages; and increasing levels of stress and burnout within the profession, to name but a few.
 
In a series of short articles we help you to examine some of the ways that NHS England’s ‘General Practice Forward View’ (GPFV), published in April 2016, aims to tackle these issues, and what this could mean for your own practice and daily working life.

Here, we look at how Practices are set to benefit from the planned investments in new technology.

The need to invest in technology

From the ability to manage their own appointments, to holding online consultations – patients’ expectations of how GP services are delivered are changing.

And the desire to increase patient access, streamline processes, and reduce GP workload through the use of technology is also mirrored at a strategic level, from within the NHS:

“The NHS’s ambition is to embrace technology as part of its drive to offer modern, convenient and responsive services to patients, their families and carers. GP practices are leading the way.”  NHS England, 2016

How the GPFV aims to help 

National level

Every practice in England is set to benefit from a number of national initiatives which are being set up with the aims of: facilitating patient online self-care and self-management; helping to reduce practice workload; and supporting practices who want to work together, at scale. Some of these initiatives include:

  • supporting the take-up of online consultation systems
  • development of an 'Apps library' to support  clinicians and patients
  • funding for Wi-Fi in practices - which will be made accessible to both staff and patients


A national IT catalogue and buying framework will also be put together, as well as locally based procurement advice and guidance services. Approved technology vendors will have to be able to deliver ‘core requirements’, such as providing:

  • the ability to access digital patient records from inside and outside of the practice
  • the ability to send outbound messaging (such as SMS) direct from the practice to individual patients
  • facilities to enable patients to manage online appointments, order prescriptions, and access test results
  • electronic access to discharge information sent from secondary care providers

 
Clinical Commissioning Group level

In addition to the national initiatives, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are able to access funding for subsidiary technology services to support local GP practices to work more efficiently, such as:

  • adopting shared care planning, telephone and appointment management systems
  • moving from paper based to digital transactions (such as online ordering of diagnostic tests)
  • joining pathways with other healthcare sectors and professional groups


Since June 2016, CCGs have also been able to submit further proposals for digital project funding as part of the Estates and Technology Transformation Programme (ETTP). It is anticipated that CCGs will receive feedback on which of their proposal submissions made under ETTP will progress to the next stage of the process at the end of August 2016.

In Autumn 2016, all CCGs’ ‘Local Digital Roadmaps’ (LDR) will also be published. These sets out the short-, medium-, and long-term digital technology priorities for each locality, with a focus on supporting the aim of having a paper-free NHS’ at the point of care’ by 2020.

Key considerations for your practice

National initiatives

Understanding when the national initiatives will be being rolled-out to your practice will allow you to plan more effectively - for example, by scheduling in any essential staff training sessions or communicating service improvements to your own patients in a timely manner.

For example, the national programme to supporting take-up of online consultation systems is due to start in 2017/18 and will be rolled out over the “coming years”. So, it’s important to understand when the changes will take place in your geographical area.

CCG initiatives

It’s worth remembering that subsidiary funding made available to CCGs for locally driven initiatives will not be immediately available in all areas:

"Over time, some of these local investments may become core service offerings once adoption becomes widespread and benefits evaluated." GPFV, April 2016

There are also clear criteria that bids for ETTP funding must meet in order to be successful, and “favourable consideration” is being given to solutions that will “work at scale for a larger population, rather than simply for individual small practice populations.”  Estates and Technology Transformation Fund (Primary Care), May 2016

So, familiarising yourself with your CCGs Local Digital Roadmap (LDR) will help you to understand:

  • how it aims to improve services across healthcare providers in your area
  • the criteria that will be used to assess applications for any future funding (as plans will be developed and improved on a rolling basis).

Practice specific initiatives

As you will be aware, ‘premises and equipment’ is one of the fundamental standards against which GP practices are assessed during Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections. 

So it’s important to have plans in place to ensure the places you use to treat patients, and the equipment and technology you use is well maintained:

“The places where you receive care and treatment and the equipment used in it must be clean, suitable and looked after properly.” CQC, 2016

Such practice specific improvements are unlikely to meet the funding criteria outlined above.

But are you aware that GP practice owners wishing to modernise their practice are now able to benefit from a permanent annual investment allowance (AIA) of £200,000 (as announced in the Summer Budget 2015).

100% of the cost of new equipment, up to the AIA value, can be deducted against profits before tax. Equipment that qualifies for a rebate under the allowance includes items such as:

  • surgery chairs, lighting, and X-ray machinery
  • IT and reception area furniture
  • air conditioning and  water heating systems


Remember:

  • claims can be made via self assessment, partnership, or company tax return
  • claims can only be made in the same accounting period that the equipment was purchased
  • you can claim for equipment paid for via a commercial loan, even if this has not yet been re-paid in full.

 
Protecting your assets

Having the right technology and equipment in place is essential to delivering a good service to your patients. So it’s important to protect it. Make sure you review your surgery insurance cover to ensure it adequately protects you against unexpected incidents such as escape of water, theft, smoke or fire damage.

If you'd like to discuss any aspect of your professional or personal finances please arrange an appointment with your local Wesleyan Financial Consultant –email financialreview@wesleyan.co.uk or call 0800 980 1277 quoting reference 45936. They are specially trained to understand the financial circumstances of GPs and will be happy to meet you, under no obligation, at a time and place that suits you.

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