The Department of Health has unveiled a £1.2 billion IT framework that will see GPs across the country have access to a range of suppliers for practice systems that can be procured with the benefit of centralised funding.

GP Systems of Choice (GPSoC) is a scheme through which the NHS funds the provision of GP clinical IT systems in England. It aims to deliver functionality for practices and citizens in line with a common set of standards and performance measures that all suppliers must adhere to.

Practices choosing systems under the GPSoC framework will receive central funding for the annual software licence charges and upgrades for existing GP clinical IT systems. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), which replaced Primary Care Trusts earlier this year, will fund a much reduced portion of the annual charges, but if a practice opts out of the framework, then the GP will receive no central cash from the NHS.

GPs will not be forced by CCGs to migrate to the GPSoC framework, but those wishing to benefit from NHS funding should work with their CCG to create a business case for the migration. The cost of migration will have to be funded locally.

GPSoC has been in place since 2007 and at present some 81 percent of practices use a system through the current framework.

However, the new framework comes shortly after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed that he wants a paperless NHS by 2018, which he hopes will save the government £4.4 billion a year.

By March 2015 Hunt is expecting that everyone in the UK should be able to get online access to their health records held by their GP, and GPs should be able to refer patients via email, instead of having to send a letter.

Delivery of the new framework, which is set to replace the old one, is still dependent on receipt of the necessary approvals from the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury.

However, an online contract notice outlines the framework, which is divided into three separate lots. Lot 1 is worth up to £770 million and is for the provision of GP Clinical IT systems and subsidiary modules, which are integrated systems that offer consultation and record management, prescribing, patient registration, core appointment and document management, and national services such as the Electronic Prescribing Service.

Subsidiary modules within this lot include technologies such as telehealth, patient record access and mobile clinical applications.

Lot 2 is worth up to £220 million and described as 'Additional GP IT Services', which will be used alongside the systems and services offered in Lot 1 and may include patient arrival systems, physical device APIs, finance systems, hardware system maintenance and hardware.

The final lot is also worth up to £220 million and is described as 'Cross Care Setting Interoperable Services', which could include services that facilitate record sharing and sending discharge notifications and referrals between care settings.