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GP extraction service was ‘fundamentally flawed’, Government auditors find

The GP Extraction Service designed to upload information from GP records for QOF is ‘unlikely to have a long-term future’, despite it being £30m over budget, the public spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office investigation into the development of the GPES system, which was intended to launch in 2009-10 but was delayed until 2014, has called into question the long-term viability of the service.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre predicts GPES will achieve less than two more years of use in its current form – way below the intended minimum of five years for a new IT scheme, the report states

The NAO says the service will continue in its current form ‘short term, as its data is critical for determining GP payments’ and its coverage can’t yet be replicated by other services.

Other issues include spiralling costs, fundamental flaws in the original design which have limited its usefulness, and delays which meant the service has only attracted one customer – NHS England –  to date.

Other potential customers, such as Public Health England adopted alternative extraction services after GPES was delayed.

The service was expected to cost just £14m to develop but reached £40m, with an additional £5.5m in costs from delays and write-offs of services rendered defunct by scrapped IT projects and the changing demands of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

The report states: ‘In March 2013, the NHS [Information Centre the HSCIC’s predecessor] accepted the system from Atos. The system transferred to the HSCIC from 1 April 2013, who found that it had fundamental design flaws and did not work.’

It adds: ‘There is unlikely to be a long-term future for GPES…limited capacity and the difficulty of developing new extracts deters wider use. The HSCIC has acknowledged there is unlikely to be a long-term future for all or part of the GPES.

‘However, they intend to reuse parts for a replacement system if possible. The HSCIC estimate that they will achieve less than two more years of use from the GPES in its current form, in contrast to the five-year minimum lifetime assumed for new IT systems.’

A HSCIC spokesperson said: ‘It is clear the GPES procurement and design stage was not good enough, regardless of the intent of predecessor bodies.

 ‘The HSCIC is equally clear that upon our creation we took full responsibility for delivering a data extraction service that is operationally and financially efficient. We are maximising the working aspects of GPES and replacing those parts that do not work. Our focus is on developing a suitable service that meets the needs of the NHS and patients.’

A spokesperson for Atos said: ‘We delivered the GP Extraction Service in line with requirements set out by NHS IC. When the service did not work as planned, we worked with them to improve functionality and have worked with the HSCIC since its inception to ensure the system was up and running to meet the deadline of the QOF 13/14 year end.’