Digital requirements guidance

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, commits to every patient having the right to be offered digital-first primary care by 2023/24.

The five-year framework for GP contract reform published to implement The NHS Long Term Plan, introduced a bold set of commitments related to digital services in general practice, agreed by NHS England and NHS Improvement and the British Medical Association (BMA).

These commitments are being introduced gradually every year through the GP contract since 2019-2020, and by now all GP practices should, among other new requirements:

  • have an online presence, such as a website, and an nhs.uk GP profile page, both of which they keep up to date
  • no longer use fax machines for NHS communications
  • offer all patients online access to their GP medical record
  • offer and promote to their patients, and those acting on their behalf, access to an online consultation tool, which enables patients to contact the practice online
  • offer and promote video consultations to their patients as an option for receiving care where appropriate.

More recently, many of these patient-facing digital requirements are presented as part of a ‘core digital offer’ – see annex C of the GP contract letter published on 21 January 2021.

You can find on this page published guidance related to some of these requirements for practices.

Guidance on digital requirements introduced in October 2021, including online consultation tools

All GP practices are required from October 2021 to ‘offer and promote’ to their patients (and those acting on their behalf) the following:

  • an online consultation tool
  • a video consultation tool
  • a secure electronic communication method
  • an online facility to provide and update personal or contact information.

These requirements are all subject to existing safeguards for vulnerable groups and third-party confidentiality. They are to be in place alongside, rather than as a replacement for, other access and communication methods, for example, telephone and face to face contact.

In addition, a small change to the existing requirements on practices having an informative and up-to-date online presence is introduced: for practices to signpost patients to their online consultations tool and to the NHS Symptom Checker from their website or other online presence.

Please see the guidance  that explains in more detail what the new digital and online services requirements are.

New guidance supporting practices to remove use of facsimile (fax) machines

The GP contract (NHS Long Term Plan and Investment and Evolution: a five-year framework for GP contract reform) set out that from April 2020, all practices will no longer use facsimile (fax) machines for either NHS or patient communications.

This practice guide contains detailed guidance and process steps to help practices achieve this. It also includes hints, tips and case study experiences to support general practices.

Download your copy of the Practice guidance: removing use of facsimile (fax) machines.

For further information please contact digitalprimarycareengland@nhsx.nhs.uk

New guidance to support practices make at least 25% of their appointments available to book online

The GP contract (NHS Long Term Plan and Investment and Evolution: a five-year framework for GP contract reform) set out that from April 2019, all practices must offer patients an opportunity to book a minimum of 25% of all appointments, online. This figure of 25% can be made up of GP appointments, all nurse appointments or other practice staff, as well as appointments made available online to NHS 111. Whilst practices differ in how they manage their appointment books, there are very few appointment types that are not suitable or adaptable for online booking.

This practice guide, designed to be read within five minutes, contains helpful hints, tips and case study experiences to support general practices to make sure that at least 25% of their appointments are available to book online. Covering, a full list of the types of appointments to include, important things to consider and configuration hints and tips.

Ensuring that appointments are available to book online is just one step in a series to deliver the vision of digital first primary care as set out in the Long Term Plan. Patients can also book and cancel their appointments, order their repeat prescriptions, view their medical records as well as look up their symptoms and register their organ donation preferences using the NHS App.

Download your copy of the Practice guidance: offering 25% of appointments online.

For further information please contact digitalprimarycareengland@nhsx.nhs.uk

Patient access to records online: Prospective record access

The NHS Long Term Plan and Investment and Evolution: a five-year framework for GP contract reform commits the NHS to give new registrants with full online access to prospective data, subject to existing safeguards for vulnerable groups and third party and system functionality.

NHS England and BMA General Practitioners Committee (GPC) in England have developed additional guidance and resources to support GP practices in meeting this commitment. These are:

For further information please contact digitalprimarycareengland@nhsx.nhs.uk