A new IT system could pave the way for a substantial change in the way primary care trusts and GPs are funded, HSJ has been told.

From next year the general practice extraction service will gather information from GP systems about the numbers of patients with specific diseases across the country.

The Department of Health's decision to ask the NHS Information Centre to collect this information is significant, as health economists have argued PCT funding should give more weight to use of the service and less to underlying need.

Information Centre programme director Dave Roberts said: "The prevalence of disease will be a far better basis on which to make resource allocations because it would not only get more money to areas of high disease burden but it will potentially address health inequalities."

The service will also collect information about patient pathways for use by commissioners. It could enable PCTs and the DH to know how many patients are seen by nurses and how many by GPs. Mr Roberts said it could be used to restructure GPs' pay, but that any changes would need to be negotiated with the British Medical Association.