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NHS Digital paid management consultants £1.2m for advice on GP IT overhaul

NHS Digital has paid management consultants £1.2m to assist with its overhaul of GP IT systems, due next year.

McKinsey & Company was paid to carry out ‘strategy, engagement and procurement’ work on NHS Digital’s plans to launch a new GP IT systems framework in the summer.

The plans were announced in August with the launch of a contract tender worth £450m and could see GP practices forced to switch patient record IT providers.

GP leaders described the expenditure as ‘extraordinary and unwarranted’, adding that it is a ‘kick in the teeth to frontline NHS workers’ struggling with limited NHS resources.

According to board papers published earlier this month, NHS Digital is forecasting a £21.7m overspend in its ‘professional fees’ expenditures category, partly due an overspend against the so-called ‘GPIT Futures programme’.

The papers explained that ‘overspends are forecast within… GPIT Futures (£1.5m) to support [the] McKinsey work’.

However, NHS Digital clarified that the management consultant fees are one element of an overall reported overspend and £1.15m has been paid to McKinsey and Company so far.

The new IT provider panel, which is set to replace the current GP Systems of Choice, will only allow providers who support ‘integrated care organisations’ and provide patient record systems that can be shared across different multi-disciplinary NHS services.

NHS Digital’s director for primary and social care technology Nic Fox said it ‘regularly works with industry partners with expertise in delivering ambitious and large-scale projects’.

He added: ‘McKinsey are working with us on strategy, engagement and procurement.’

Family Doctor Association chairman Dr Peter Swinyard said the money ‘looks like an extraordinary and unwarranted expenditure’ on management consultants.

BMA GP Committee contract and regulation policy lead Dr Robert Morley added that it was ‘an absolute disgrace and a further kick in the teeth to frontline NHS workers struggling to do their best for patients in the face of inadequate resources and increasingly impossible workloads’.  

He added: ‘Throwing huge amounts of money away like this yet again will do nothing to benefit anybody but the management consultants that receive it.’

GP leaders had previously warned that attempts to overhaul GP IT systems ‘will be a huge undertaking’ and urged NHS Digital to ‘carefully consider the potential impact on practices’.

This comes after Pulse revealed last year that health and social care bosses spent £21m on management consultants to help draw up plans to overhaul regional NHS services.

McKinsey & Company declined to comment.