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Online GP service users increase by 40% in one year

by Valeria Fiore
28 March 2018

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The number of online GP service users has increased by over 40% in one year, NHS England has said.

Figures by NHS England published yesterday (27 March) revealed a 42% increase in the number of people using online services compared to this time last year and, according to NHS Digital figures, ‘some one million appointments are being made or cancelled online every month’.

This means that 13.9 million patients in England are now booking appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions and accessing their patient records online.

GP practices that offer these services are already saving precious time that they would have otherwise spent in other activities such as answering the phone, as in the case of a GP practice in Buckinghamshire, NHS England said.

After a focussed campaign, The Swan practice signed up 1,200 patients to its online services.

The practice successfully halved its daily phone calls from 50 to 25, as it made it easier for patients to access their test results online, NHS England said.

The practice had already highlighted the benefits of online services back in 2016, when it said that encouraging patients to use digital GP services helped them save 40 days a year on calls and appointments with patients who wanted to discuss their test results.

National clinical lead for NHS England Patient Online programme Dr Masood Nazir said: ‘There are many demands on GP practices, so encouraging patients to register for online services is not only helping reduce some of the pressure but it is empowering, enabling and motivating more patients to share the responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.’

The 2015/16 General Medical Services (GMS) contract and Personal Medical Services (PMS) agreement stated that GP practices have to promote and offer patients the facility to book, view, amend, cancel and print appointments online, and order repeat prescriptions online.

According to the 2017/18 General Medical Services Digital guidance, ‘in supporting the increased use of these services and building on the 2016/17 target of 10%, practices are encouraged to aim for twenty per cent of their registered patients to be using one or more online services by 31 March 2018’.