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NHS England begins big e-consultation procurement



Organisation begins to test the market as step towards spending £45 million on increasing the use of online systems

NHS England is pushing forward with its plan to increase the use of e-consultations in primary and urgent care, with the first step towards setting up a national procurement framework.

It has published a prior information notice for a dynamic purchasing system (DPS) – which gives suppliers the chance to join during the lifetime of the framework – to size up the market’s interest.

The organisation’s Commercial and Procurement Technology Support Hub is exploring the possibilities, and aiming to set up a framework with two lots, one each for primary and urgent care.

The notice says the DPS should allow bodies such as clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and general practices to procure e-consultation systems on a local or regional basis.

This follows the commitment of £45 million up to the end of 2019-10 for the development of online consultations as part of the General Practice Forward View strategy published last year. The money will be allocated to CCGs to make their own choices on the systems, possibly topping up the procurement with their own funds.

Passive or prompts

NHS England has said the system may be largely passive, providing a means to pass on unstructured input from the patient, or include specific prompts in response to symptoms described. It could also offer advice on self-care and signposting to other sources of help, as well as the option to send information to the GP for a response.

It added that e-consultations have proved popular with patients in the early adopter practices, and can free up 10% of GPs' time to deal with more complex cases.

Image from iStock

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