Dramatic annual surge in online GP services as patients sign up for convenience

Updated 13 April: This post has been amended following a typo in one of the quotes.

Nearly 14 million patients across England are now securely using online services with their family doctor to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view their records – saving time for themselves and busy GP practices.

Latest figures show an increase of 42 per cent in those people who are signed up for online services compared to the same time last year, helping to ease pressure on GPs and their staff – and saving patients’ time and money.

It means 24 per cent of patients – 13.9 million – in England are now registered to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions, view their patient records and see their test results without having to phone or visit their GP surgery.

The NHS Digital figures from February 2018 show an average of one million appointments are being made or cancelled online every month, and nearly 2.3 million prescriptions ordered online, as practices and their patients are increasingly using digital technology.

GPs whose practices have embraced online services are already seeing some of the benefits, with fewer patient calls and fewer people failing to attend – saving time that could be used on other activities within the GP practice.

One GP practice, The Swan in Buckinghamshire, managed to sign up 1,200 patients as part of a focussed campaign, halving of its daily phone calls from around 50 calls a day to 25 after offering online test results to its patients. This reduction in calls has given staff an extra 75 minutes of time a day, or six hours 25 minutes a week to spend on other areas of their work.

Dr Masood Nazir, National Clinical Lead for NHS England Patient Online programme, describes how online access for patients is supporting practices to improve their clinical care.

“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”, said Dr Nazir.

“We are seeing many examples of this particularly working well for patients with long term conditions who can use their GP record to become more knowledgeable and confident about their condition, treatment and care prior to attending an appointment with their doctor or nurse.”

Patients can access their detailed coded medical record to check what medication they take and that their immunisations are up to date before booking a holiday.

Juliet Bauer, Chief Digital Officer for the NHS said: “We’re delighted to see an increase in the numbers of people accessing digital services in GP practices since last year. We’ve worked hard to support practice staff to be able to offer these services to their patients. The work to improve GP engagement, patient awareness and the patient experience is resulting in more sign-ups and better use of these vital services. This is just one example of how we are increasing the use of technology in the NHS to empower people to take more control of their health, wellbeing and care.”