Criteria for using the fund

NHS England has allocated £45 million to support the implementation of online consultation systems by practices.

Funding will be allocated by NHS England regional teams from 2017/18 to CCGs on a weighted capitation basis, once a plan for delivery by the CCG has been signed off by NHS England.

CCG allocations

The proposed allocation for each CCG is set out on the CCG allocation page.

This is a one-off transformation fund being provided and overseen as part of the General Practice Forward View, and does not constitute a commitment to ongoing funding after the three year period.

As detailed below, a small proportion of the total fund will be used to provide national support to maximise the impact and value for money.

Who is eligible?

Every GP practice in England is eligible to access the support from this new national funding, which will be allocated at CCG level on a weighted capitation basis, once NHS England regional teams are satisfied with CCG plans.

Ongoing allocation of funding after year 1 will depend on evidence of uptake by practices and focused actions to realise the benefits of this approach for patients. Participation is optional for practices, but it is hoped that the majority of practices will benefit from the fund over the three year period and it is expected that all CCGs submit coordinated plans for this funding.

CCGs will procure licences for systems on behalf of their practices and we would expect that in most areas procurement will be undertaken at scale across STP footprints. This place-based approach will facilitate alignment with other initiatives in improving access and digital innovations, greater collaboration and coordination across practices, and effective engagement and marketing for patients.

What is it for?

The fund is to be used towards the costs of providing patients with the facility to conduct a clinical consultation with their GP practice online. Where locally agreed, it may also link with urgent and out of hours services. Pilots of such schemes will run in some areas in 2017/18.

The CCG will purchase licences on behalf of their practices for a hosted service on a per-patient basis. The funding may be used towards the cost of services or software for online systems and to support the introduction of the new way of working, for example through backfill of staff time, engagement with patients or provision of project management support.

Where systems are already in place, this funding may be used to increase take-up by patients or used in other ways to derive benefits from online consultations.

Eligible systems will have the following features:

  • Connection via web browser, mobile app or both. Apps should be accessible to patients without payment.
  • Functionality to allow the patient to enter a query, symptoms or other information and for this to be transmitted securely to their registered GP practice.
  • Optionally, the system may provide functionality to provide or signpost the patient to information relating to their query or symptoms. This may include information about conditions and treatment or about local health, care and support services.
  • Information provided by patients used for clinical purposes must be capable of being imported back into the GP practice system with minimal manual intervention.
  • Video consultation is not an essential technical requirement. CCGs can include the video consultation function should this be determined as a local requirement.

Many CCGs and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are already working on integrated digital initiatives building on the implementation of NHS 111 online and may want to use this opportunity to connect GP practices, local neighbourhoods or practices with clinical hubs or urgent care services. It is expected that, in time, this will become commonplace, as part of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships’ work to improve access, outcomes and efficiency.