GP practices must procure cloud-based telephony once their current telephone contracts expire, under changes made in the new contract letter released by NHS England this week.
Practices will be required to procure this technology from a national framework, called Better Purchasing Framework, the contract letter said. This has been developed by NHS England to provide recommended suppliers and ‘assure value for money’.
Only cloud-based platforms will be supported in practices from the end of 2025, with ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) analogue lines set to be removed from both personal and business settings by the end of the year. This is a national transition by the telecoms industry which will shift the UK from analogue to digital landlines.
The new GP contract said that digital telephony would provide ‘greater functionality for practices and patients’.
‘This includes call queueing or call back which provide a better patient experience when the lines are busy as well as management information and data to support practices gain insight and improve their responsiveness further,’ it said.
The document added that the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, which is due to be published ‘shortly’, would outline further support available to practices who ‘indicate they are interested’ in making the move to cloud telephony in 2023/24.
In December, NHS England’s primary care director Dr Amanda Doyle, estimated that 65% of practices still use old analogue systems that do not have the ability to signpost people or feedback data to practices about who is calling.