IT shake-up for Welsh GPs after procurement review

1 February 2018

Healthcare software provider EMIS Group, whose system is used by 5,147 GP practices in the UK, has lost its preferred vendor status in Wales.

NHS Wales said it had made the decision following a planned procurement review process, which began in quarter one of 2017. 

It said the EMIS missed out on the contract because its bid failed to meet requirements.

“It is the intention to award the contract for GP clinical systems and services to two suppliers – Vision Health and Microtest,” it said.

“Both suppliers demonstrated a strong commitment and ability to meet core clinical and technical requirements and the wider primary care agenda, as well as further integration with the NHS Wales’ digital services platform.

“A third tender, submitted by EMIS Health Ltd, did not meet a number of the necessary evaluation criteria relating to the financial, contractual and functional requirements.”

The decision follows EMIS’s announcement earlier this month that it expected to incur penalties “in the order of upper single digits of millions of pounds” for failing to meet unnamed contractual requirements in its GP Systems of Choice contract, which governs the supply of electronic patient record systems. 

At the time, the company did not specify the areas where they fell short or incurred the penalties, but said they related to lower priority system issues and reporting.

EMIS won the contract to provide a managed IT service to GP surgeries across Wales in 2012.

As of June 2017, EMIS provided GP services to 195 practices in Wales – almost half of the total 441 GP practices in the country. Annual revenue from the existing framework agreement with NHS Wales is £2m. 

In a statement, EMIS confirmed NHS Wales’ decision and said users of its EMIS services would be transitioned over to new systems.

“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,” it said. 

Rebecca Payne, Royal College of GPs Wales chair, warned that there was a “real risk” those GPs already under pressure and considering retirement would leave rather than face having to change IT systems.

“This will be a concerning development for many of our members,” she said. 

“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.

“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.”

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) said although it recognised the issues that a switch would impose on GP practices, it “ultimately agreed with the decision”.

David Bailey, chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee (GPC) Wales, said it backed NHS Wales’ decision due to EMIS wanting changes to the contract that would put practices at risk.

“GPC Wales has been fully engaged with NHS Wales Informatics Service throughout the procurement process and consistently highlighted the problems that changing providers would cause practices currently using EMIS,” he said. 

“However, GPC Wales ultimately agreed with the decision to end the contract with EMIS due to the large number of criteria that they were unwilling to meet.

“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 that GPs had been promised funding to support them during the transition.

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