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NHS Wales terminates IT contract with Microtest over ongoing delays

NHS Wales has cancelled its IT contract with Microtest after the company faced ongoing delays to introducing its clinical software to GP practices. 

Microtest, one of two IT suppliers approved by NHS Wales, was due to have completed switching 139 Welsh GP practices over to its system by July.

However, at the start of the summer it was revealed the supplier would be unable to move practices over to its system for at least a further six months due to ‘additional testing’ required to ‘ensure the system is safe and stable’. 

Following the delays, NHS Wales announced last week on Thursday that a ‘mutual agreement’ had been reached for it to terminate the contract.

GPs previously warned that Microtest is an unsuitable provider and could ‘collapse’, in turn creating ‘numerous teething problems that impact on patient care’.

In January, Microtest was awarded a contract to supply IT systems to GP practices in Wales alongside IT company Vision, which has also experienced delays in updating its systems.

Microtest was meant to deliver its systems to practices from January 2019 onwards for a five-year period, with the option to extend its contract for up to another two years. 

In a statement pubished by NHS Wales last week, it said: ‘NHS Wales has today cancelled its contract with Microtest Limited by mutual agreement, due to ongoing delays in supplying its clinical software to GP practices in Wales.’

A spokesperson for NHS Wales Informatics Service, which oversees NHS IT services in Wales, said: ‘Microtest could not deliver the hosted clinical software and meet the integration requirements of NHS Wales within the timescales that would allow GP practices to transition from the previous contractual arrangements.

‘The decision to end the contract was not arrived at lightly, with several factors contributing, including the impact that the delays were having on practices in planning for their migration to a new system.’

They added: ‘We are extremely disappointed with this outcome but it is the best course of action for Welsh GPs, practice staff and the patients that they care for. The NHS Wales Informatics Service and the GMS Information Management and Technology Programme Board are committed to delivering clinical software that will enhance and support the vital work of family doctors in Wales.’

Welcoming the news, the BMA’s Welsh GP Committee chair Dr Phil White said: ‘GPC Wales is entirely supportive of the decision by NHS Wales to cancel its contract with Microtest.

‘GPC Wales has been fully involved in the procurement process, and consistently highlighted the impact that unacceptable delays were having on practices in planning for their migration to a new system.’

He continued: ‘We remain committed to engaging with the consultation process to ensure that the views of the profession are represented and that clinical IT systems are not only fit for purpose but will improve and support the working practices of GPs in Wales.’

Microtest medical director Chris Netherton said: ‘Although we were very much looking forward to supplying Wales practices and we have greatly enjoyed working closely with NHS Wales Informatics Service, the Welsh Health Boards and Welsh practices, we will now be focussing on other existing and new opportunities for the Microtest business.’

 EMIS was previously authorised to provide IT for practices in Wales but its contract was dropped after it failed to meet a ‘large number of criteria‘, according to BMA Wales. 

This forced around half of the Welsh practices to either switch to Microtest or existing provider Vision.

NHS Wales said GPs will continue to use their current IT systems, pending the results of a review of the clinical systems that is due to be completed in January 2020.