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UK ramps up online access to GP services

Number of practices offering services like appointments via the internet tripled in first three months of 2015

Doctors digital online 

Almost every GP surgery in England now offers a basic range of services online, according to new figures from NHS England.

This follows a spike in the number of GPs offering appointments, repeat prescriptions and access to summary information in medical records online, which tripled in the first three months of this year. 

Beverley Bryant, director of digital technology for NHS England, said: “Many patients want the flexibility of booking services online so we are delighted that GPs have worked so hard to make this possible. There is more to come as we develop services that will increasingly help patients take more control of their health.” 

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows that over 97% of patients in England now have access to online services, a huge increase from the 3% in April 2014. 

Dr Masood Nazir, GP and national clinical lead for NHS England's PatientOnline programme, said: “Online services help to make patients' lives easier and can reduce the paperwork for those in general practice. As GPs offer more online access we will continue to work closely with them to ensure they feel confident these services deliver real benefits for their patients.” 

The government has ambitious plans to offer everyone in the UK online access to their full health records but, in addition to the inevitable questions about data security that will have to be answered, it will also have to overcome the 'digital divide'. 

There are still 10 million people who do not have access to the internet and 4 million of these people are the most socially and economically disadvantaged in the country. 

Meanwhile, NHS England will put the emphasis on patients to go online. To use the GP services currently available via the internet NHS England is encouraging patients to ask their GP surgery to set-up their online access next time they visit. 

Nevertheless, the announcement of greater online service coverage was welcomed by doctors leaders, who said moving administrative services online could ultimately lead to better patient care. 

Dr Imran Rafi, chair of the Clinical Innovation and Research Centre at the Royal College of General Practitioners and lead for the RCGP Patient Online programme, said: “Services such as online appointment booking and online repeat prescription requests offer patients greater choice over how they interact with their GP practice - and it is very encouraging that the vast majority of patients now have some form of online access to their practice. 

“We hope that Patient Online will make our patients' lives easier and, in time, help to reduce the administrative burden on practices so that all members of the practice team are able to focus more of their time on frontline patient care."

And, speaking to PMLiVE last year, life sciences minister George Freeman said both the NHS and pharma should be looking to digital technology to help the health service make the billions in savings needed over the coming years.

Article by
Dominic Tyer

21st May 2015

From: PME

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