This site is intended for health professionals only

Practices to be forced to change IT provider in ‘significant disruption’

Half the GP practices in Wales will be forced to switch IT systems after it emerged that the contract with EMIS has been dropped – a ’significant disruption’ that could see GPs leaving the profession, leaders have warned. 

EMIS is only one of two systems used by practices in Wales, but following a tender process NHS Wales said that EMIS Health Ltd had not met a number of necessary evaluation criteria, including meeting GMS needs and supporting the wider primary care agenda.

The RCGP warned that GPs nearing retirement are threatening to leave the profession altogether rather than face another IT switch.

A letter sent to GPs said that the contract for GP clinical systems and services was awarded to Vision Health Ltd – a current provider in Wales – and Microtest Ltd.

The first GP practices will migrate or upgrade to new systems in January 2019, with the final migration due to be completed by July 2020.

BMA Wales said they had consistently highlighted the problems that changing providers would cause practices but there were a ‘large number of criteria’ that EMIS failed to meet.

Dr David Bailey, BMA Welsh Council chair said: ‘The changes EMIS wanted to implement would have put practices at unacceptable risk of disruption, and included no levers to protect practices operationally if the system were to collapse.’

He added they could not provide a full explanation of the decision or a full list of answers until after 6 February because the decision could be subject to legal challenge.

But, Dr Bailey said: ‘GPC Wales will continue to work closely with NWIS, Welsh Government and Health Boards to minimise disruption.

‘GPC Wales has been firmly promised resources to support practices during the migration and more details on that will follow.’

RCGP Wales chair Dr Rebecca Payne said she was very concerned about the impact on practices, especially in North Wales where they had recently moved systems and 89 of 118 practices were now with EMIS.

‘It is one of those decisions that leaves you speechless when you start to think about the ramifications. It is hard to see how we have the clinical staff in Wales to mitigate this.’

‘GPs are already under significant pressure, many older GPs are considering retirement and there is a real risk that changing IT systems will lead to people leaving the profession.’

She added: ‘Change on this scale requires time and resource, potentially decreasing GPs’ clinical time and being detrimental to patient care.

‘We hope as much support as possible is given to practices in order to minimise disruption.’

In a statement to the City this morning, EMIS said: ’EMIS Group plc has received confirmation from NHS Wales that it has not been chosen as a preferred vendor for the next primary care framework agreement in Wales, following a planned procurement review process which began during the first quarter of 2017, as previously reported by the Group.

’As at 30 June 2017, EMIS provided GP services to 195 practices in Wales. The Group’s total UK estate at that date was 5,147 GP practices. Annual revenues from the existing framework agreement with NHS Wales are approximately £2 million at a margin significantly below the Group average.

‘This decision will require that EMIS Web users in Wales are transitioned to a new provider via a phased process throughout 2019 and 2020, to be agreed with NHS Wales. EMIS will continue to generate revenues on a reducing basis until the transition process is complete.’