NHSE urges general practice to sign digital telephony contracts ahead of December deadline

NHS England has published a letter to ICBs from NHSE’s national director for primary care and community services Dr Amanda Doyle, setting out the requirement for practices to get contracts for digital telephony signed before the 15 December 2023 in order to avoid adjustment of funding allocation.

The letter highlights the commitment to moving all practices across to digital telephony as part of the modern general practice model, with the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care setting out funding for incumbent supplier costs and implementation costs needed for the transition, such as for digital headsets. With the number practices using digital telephony having increased from just over 50 percent last year, to over 80 percent to date, the letter urges remaining practices to make the move before funding ends.

Specifically, the letter states: “To guarantee funding, eligible practices will need to have signed a digital telephony contract by 15 December 2023”, which “allows enough time for implementation and any installation work needed to go live before the end of March 2024 and ensures that funding is spent this financial year”. If practices cannot sign contracts prior to 15 December, the letter notes that they will have to bear the costs themselves.

Further, practices must all have made the transition by 2025, when the PSTN network will be switched off across the UK.

The letter adds that funding allocated to ICBs for the transition will have to be adjusted via the ICB Integrated Finance Return monthly process, should the deadline not be met.

An annex letter is attached for ICBs to forward to practices in their region, reminding them of the deadline and detailing how they can still meet requirements. Click here to read it.

In our special report from earlier this year, we looked at the implications for the transition to cloud telephony, hearing from telephony suppliers babblevoice and Think Healthcare.

We covered progress from general practices in August, when the DHSC announced that more than 1,000 GP practices had signed up to upgrade their phone systems from analogue to digital.