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Blood tests and asthma clinics should be directly bookable, guidance says

by Beth Gault
25 November 2022

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NHS England has published new guidance detailing the types of appointments that patients should be able to book directly, either online, over the phone or in-person.

Appointments that do not need to go through a triage process such as for blood tests, asthma clinics, travel vaccinations, childhood vaccinations and cholesterol monitoring would be ‘appropriate’ to offer via direct booking, it says.

However, it also added that it was ‘for each practice to determine the types of appointment that are made available for direct booking’, and that this should ‘align’ with the practice’s own procedures.

The guidance, published this week, follows a contractual change earlier this year that recommended that all appointments not needing to go through triage first be available for booking directly by patients.

It suggests a total of 19 areas that would be appropriate for direct booking although stresses the list is not ‘mandatory or exhaustive.’

Practices need to consider the impact on convenience for patients, the administrative burden on staff and ‘equitable access’ for different patient groups when deciding which appointments are available to book directly, the guidance says.

‘As technology evolves, the type of appointments that could be made available for patients to book directly may increase,’ it explained. ‘For example, when a patient can be offered a choice of specific appointment slots appropriate to their needs following a triage or assessment.’

Meanwhile, it’s vital that practices ensure appointment names are understandable to patients ‘to reduce the risk of incorrect booking’. For example, the term ‘blood tests’, should be used instead of ‘phlebotomy’. 

This latest guidance comes after NHS England guidance suggested practices avoid using phrases ‘online consultation’, ‘practice’ and ‘triage’ on their websites.

Examples of appointments that could be made directly bookable

  • Asthma clinic
  • Blood tests
  • B12 injection
  • Childhood vaccinations
  • Contraception appointment
  • Cholesterol monitoring
  • Carer health check
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) clinic/monitors
  • Diabetic review
  • Dressing/wound care
  • Dementia assessment
  • Flu vaccination
  • Anti-coagulant clinic
  • Medical examinations for employers e.g. heavy goods vehicle (HGV) licence
  • New patient health check
  • Removal of stitches/wound dressing
  • Routine injections (non-travel)
  • Cervical screening
  • Travel vaccinations.

As individual practice population needs can vary significantly, this list should not be seen as mandatory or exhaustive.

Source: NHS England