What GP practices need to do

The vast majority of GP practices offer online services to their patients.

This meets the General Medical Services (GMS), Personal Medical Services (PMS) and Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) regulations from 2015/16 and beyond.

These services include:

  • booking and cancelling of appointments
  • ordering of repeat prescriptions
  • viewing of detailed information in their GP record, held in coded form where requested by the patient and where GPSoC approved systems are available.

In addition, this is subject to appropriate safeguards which are summarised in the British Medical Association’s (BMA) guidance and more detail is available in the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) guide.

The BMA, local medical committees (LMCs) and NHS England are keen that GP practices continue to actively promote online services and benefit from the increased efficiencies and improved patient satisfaction these services bring. Online services are offered in addition to the traditional telephone and face-to-face interactions. Patients will be able to choose the route they prefer.

Commitments for 2016/17

For the GMS/PMS regulations 2016/17 and APMS regulations, the BMA and NHS England made a joint commitment to encourage practices to register a minimum of 10 per cent of their patients for at least one online service by 31 March 2017.

Practices were also required to provide patients with online access to clinical correspondence such as discharge summaries, outpatient appointment letters and referral letters, unless it may cause harm to the patient or contains reference to third parties. Practices must make available only those letters received from a chosen date, which must be no later than 31 March 2017.

To do this, practices must be able to screen for third party information and to assess potential for harm before the patient can see the document. Some systems make documents available to the patient immediately, which is likely to be before the clinician has been able to review them. Practices with these systems may feel it is unsafe to enable online access to clinical correspondence.

We are aware that this currently affects EMIS practices using Docman, but advise that all users check their system functionality.

Commitments for 2017/18

For the GMS/PMS regulations 2017/18 and APMS regulations, the BMA and NHS England have made a joint commitment to encourage practices to register a minimum of 20 per cent of their patients for at least one online service by 31 March 2018. Practices are also required to support patients to use apps to access Patient Online services. [Technical support for the apps will be provided by the app supplier.] Finally, practices should continue to provide patients who request it, with online access to clinical correspondence.

There is a wide variety of support and resources available to support practices to meet these requirements including our frequently asked questions.

The three documents below also provide further guidance: