Exclusive NHS England last night issued a confidential 48-hour tender for the rapid procurement of online consultation in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Last week GP surgeries were advised by NHS England to start moving to a total triage system, as well as undertaking remote care where possible.
The accelerated tender documents were issued to a group of trusted NHS suppliers by NHS England National Commercial Procurement Hub. The rapid advancement of digital services and video consultations will mean that around one quarter of CCGs across England will have access to the new system.
Harry Longman, CEO of askmyGP, one of the companies on the NHS supplier list said: ‘It’s definitely been brought forward, it shows that NHS England are taking this very, very seriously.’
Suppliers will have 48 hours to submit proposals, a process which would normally take two to three weeks.
Mr Longman added: ‘[The procurement] can accelerate a change which will benefit general practice and patients in the long term.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair said: ‘Any measures that will assist practices and GPs at this time are to be encouraged. These systems could help GPs continue to deliver care in a safe way, helping to minimise the risk of infection and allowing those that are in most need of treatment to be prioritised.’
He added: ‘However, it is important that any changes do not place any additional financial burden on the practice, nor add to the workload of doctors.’
NHS England said they expect to evaluate and award the tender by 20 March.
Earlier this month, NHS England medical director Dr Nikita Kanani advised GPs to use online booking for triage in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The NHS Long Term Plan commits that every patient will have the right to be offered digital-first primary care by 2023/24.