Dr Nigel Watson answers readers’ questions on funding for IT systems, Read codes and submitting data to the PCT
Q Our PCT says that it does not have sufficient funding to reimburse us for IT maintenance and minor upgrades this year, and that the situation will not change next year. What action should we take?
A Historically, PCTs have funded a percentage of practices’ IT costs. Under the new GMS contract, 100% funding has been agreed for the purchase, maintenance, upgrade and running costs of systems.The funding is backdated to 1 April 2003.
It is estimated that PCTs’ investment in IM&T is £50 million each year, from baseline funding. An additional £20 million has been allocated to PCTs to cover maintenance and minor upgrades this financial year.
If your PCT does not agree to this funding, ask your LMC to become involved.
Q Does funding for IT cover payroll, maintenance and items such as paper and ink cartridges?
A The General Practitioners Committee of the BMA believes that all relevant IT costs involved in running a practice - both clinical and nonclinical - are covered under the contract. Your clinical system, network and access to NHSnet are certainly provided at no cost to the practice. However, payroll costs are still under discussion.
Consumables, such as stationery, are a business expense and are not covered under the funding agreement.
Q Which Read codes should we use when entering data for the quality and outcomes framework, and where can we find a comprehensive list?
A Practices must record data in a structured way, using agreed Read codes. This is the only way to work out how many quality points have been achieved.
A comprehensive list of Read codes is available at www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/newreadcodes, as is a list of exception codes.
It is important not to record data using free text as the search tools that will be used cannot detect these entries.
Q I have heard that from 1 April 2004 we will have to tell the PCT each month how many points our practice has achieved in the quality and outcomes framework. Is this true?
A It is not true that practices will have to submit data on a monthly basis to the PCT. What has been agreed is that by the middle of this year all practices’ clinical systems will have software that enables them to generate a report to see how many quality points they have achieved in the clinical areas. Reports can be generated as frequently as the practice wishes.
The practice may then choose to submit the data anonymously to the PCT over NHSnet and compare their achievements with the average in the PCT and nationally. It is hoped that practices will do this monthly.
The same software will be used in April 2005 to calculate the achievement payment but - for obvious reasons - this submission will need to identify the practice.