What GP practices need to do

The majority of GP practices are already offering 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.

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.

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 have made a joint commitment to encourage practices to register a minimum of 10% of their patients for at least one online service by 31 March 2017. This is being closely monitored as negotiations for 2017/18 progress.

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.

Practices also need 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 will have to make available only those letters received from a chosen date, which will be no later than 31 March 2017.

Please note that 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.

There is a wide variety of support and resources available.

Have a look at our frequently asked questions for more information.

For further guidance, the Patient Online team has developed the following three documents: