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Government pulls plug on funding for NHS appraisals website

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs will be charged for using the NHS Appraisal Toolkit (ATK) website from November this year, after the Government scrapped all central funding for the resource.

The Department of Health has announced that it does not intend to renew its contract with the provider company SCHIN, meaning any GPs who wish to continue using it after 31 October will have to pay to do so.

The Government said the decision was being made in line with policy set out in the health White Paper stating that 'arrangements for appraisals should be made locally within the NHS', and has advised NHS trusts to consider their arrangements for the necessary local systems in the absence of centrally-supported software.

Thousands of GPs suffered massive disruption to their appraisals earlier this year when the site was temporarily taken offline after a routine security check revealed that the system was not ‘sufficiently robust to withstand modern-day hacking'.

But the DH insisted that the decision to pull funding had nothing to do with unresolved security issues, saying ‘there have been no known security breaches of the system'.

The DH said it would shortly announce details of ‘a reasonable charge for each doctor', which would be ‘necessary to cover the cost of providing a helpdesk, technical service levels, and ensuring ATK continues to meet the highest level of information security'.

The Department said it was possible that trusts, rather than individual doctors, could pay for continuation of the service, but said this was ‘a local matter'.

This means it is likely that GPs will have to pay for the resource – which will be increasingly important in helping them to complete annual appraisals, in light of the toughened processes being implemented by trusts ahead of revalidation.

The DH said subscribing to the toolkit would allow GPs to transfer previous data to RevalidationPLUS, a new and appraisal and revalidation system offering ‘strengthened Appraisal, ePortfolio, MSF (multi source feedback), patient surveys, and appraiser and administrator functionality'.

But for those who do not subscribe, all data entered before 31 October 2010 will only be available for one year before being deleted.

It said: ‘Whether you choose to continue to use ATK or not, all data entered in ATK before 31 October 2010 will be available to you. If you choose not to subscribe to ATK, your data will continue to be held securely for one year and then it will be deleted.'

The Government has pulled its central funding for the NHS Appraisal Toolkit website - credit John Ward, Flickr The Government has pulled its central funding for the NHS Appraisal Toolkit website - credit John Ward, Flickr