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GP practices to share appointments and patient records to relieve Covid-19 patient burden

by Awil Mohamoud
27 April 2020

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A new digital platform enables GP practices to share appointments and patient care records with each other to ensure ‘flexible’ care for patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Using GP Connect, launched by NHS Digital and NHSX, GP practices will be able to book their patients in for appointments at other surgeries or healthcare settings. 

This gives patients access to ‘quicker and more efficient’ care, particularly when there is a long waiting list at their registered practice. 

The referred-to clinicians will have ‘swift access’ to read-only patient records to allow them to deliver that care, regardless of whether a patient has been there before, according to NHS Digital. 

The system will eventually include a feature that sends an automatic consultation summary back to the registered practice.

During the coronavirus crisis, additional information is being added to Summary Care Records, such as a wider medical history, reasons for medication, care plan information and end of life care. This will not apply to patients who have opted-out of that information sharing. 

The new system also gives NHS 111 the ability to directly book appointments at GP practices and specialist centres. 

NHS Digital and NHSX have produced guidance for GP practices on how to set up and use GP Connect. 

NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould said: ‘Colleagues on the frontline across the NHS are doing extraordinary work in caring for our patients in the most challenging of circumstances, and these temporary changes will help them to give the most prompt and appropriate care to people who need it.’

NHS Digital interim director of primary care technology Richard Alcock said: ‘GPs and other front-line clinicians are increasingly finding themselves working differently, with normal working patterns disrupted and a greater pressure than seen before on the system. 

‘Patients will now be able to have appointments booked at practices other than where they are registered as well as at a number of different healthcare settings.   

‘However, for that to work in practice, their new clinicians will need to have swift access to pertinent medical information, such a previous medical history or medications prescribed, to treat them safely.’