Too many GP practices are still using old-school analogue telephony, it is time for an upgrade to digital. 

According to a letter published by NHS England, the impending 15th December 2023 deadline for signing a digital telephony contract is to ensure that practices receive funding for the transition within this financial year. NHS England is encouraging all GP practices that are still using analogue systems – which equates to about 20% of practices nationwide – to reach out to their Integrated Care Board (ICB) as soon as possible to ensure they meet the deadline.

But why the hurry, you may wonder? 

The ‘Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’ published in May 2023, explained that easing the pressure on general practice and tackling the “8am rush” was fundamental to unlocking wider reforms such as those outlined in the Fuller Stocktake. 

This plan has two central ambitions:

1. To tackle the “8am rush” and reduce the number of people struggling to contact their practice. 

2. For patients to know on the day they contact their practice how their request will be managed.

The digital telephony funding that is described as part of the primary care recovery plan, is only guaranteed to practices that have signed a digital telephony contract by 15 December 2023. This deadline has been set to allow enough time for the implementation work needed to go live before the end of March 2024. 

The funding available for each practice signing up by the deadline will vary depending upon the criteria determined by their ICB. The plan provided will support practices to move to digital telephony by funding: (i) any incumbent supplier exit costs; and (ii) implementation costs including handsets and headsets.

If, for some reason, a practice misses the 15th December 2023 deadline but signs before the end of the financial year, they cannot expect to get the same level of funding as NHS England will look to reclaim the funding from the ICB.  The letter is explicit that the digital telephony funding is only available this year.  

There is one more important factor to keep in mind: By 2025, everyone will have to switch to digital because the old PSTN network will be saying its goodbyes across the UK.

How to secure that all-important funding for digital telephony:

ICBs were asked to sign up for digital telephony funding before the 1st of July 2023. Practices now need to engage with their ICB and the National Commercial and Procurement HUB as a matter of urgency to ensure participation in the programme. 

Please get in touch with your ICB and the National Commercial and Procurement HUB as soon as possible. The HUB, commissioned by NHS England, offers the support you need to make the change. Working with them is a must if you want to get your hands on that funding.

If you’re looking to confirm whether your practice is on the list of eligible ones, please reach out to your ICB’s primary care or digital lead. They will be able to advise if they are included in the list.

So there you have it. It’s time to get on board with digital telephony and secure that funding before the clock runs out. 

The future is calling, and it’s digital! 

Top Tip

In choosing a supplier from the Better Purchasing Framework, our best advice is to look at the systems being used by the most effective surgeries in your Primary Care Network (PCN) and seek their advice. 

The next stage in integrating primary care and improving access will be the further consolidation of systems and suppliers as the ecosystem evolves and matures, so we suggest that you select a market leader or at least a system widely used locally. Taking a chance on a system that will not make the grade going forward, doesn’t have a strong reputation or superior features, is likely to result in further change in 3 years when your contract comes up for renewal. 

X-on Health is here to guide you every step of the way, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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