GPs to offer 'online-first' primary care from 2020 under new contract

All practices in England are expected to offer 'digital-first' primary care to patients under the new five-year GP contract - including online access to health records, prescription ordering and video consultations - from 2020.

Digital GP services (Photo: iStock)
Digital GP services (Photo: iStock)

The digitisation of primary care will start with practices making 'at least' 25% of appointments bookable online by October 2019.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline the move was intended to 'reduce workload on receptionists', and made clear that it would be up to practices to decide which appointments to make available under the scheme.

Practices would not be obliged to make GP appointments available online if they did not wish to, he said - appointments made available could be for nurse visits, health checks or other types of appointments at practices.

Digital general practice

A move to a more digital approach in general practice would 'enable practices to ask for more information ahead of appointments' through online tools, Dr Vautrey added - reducing the amount of time spent gathering basic information during consultations.

All patients are to be given full access to their health records via the internet using a national NHS login from April 2020, and GP practices will also go ‘paperless’ - offering patients online access to all correspondence, including prescription services - by April next year.

Resources will be made available to enable practices to offer online and video consultations from 2020, with the aim of giving every patient access to video consultations by 2021.

In addition, new measures allowing NHS 111 to book patients into appointments at their local surgery - for which one appointment per 3,000 patients per day will be saved - will be announced in the next two months.

GP contract

Dr Vautrey said: ‘The health and social care secretary has made his ambitions around technology in general practice clear, and GPs recognise the potential convenience that new systems can offer to many patients. We have therefore agreed a realistic timescale to improve digital access for patients, building on improved infrastructure to firstly be able to book an appointment and access to their own records online, before progressing to video consultations for all in 2021.

‘We will also set in train an important programme to digitalise all remaining paper records, so freeing up much needed space in GP practices as well as delivering a comprehensive electronic patient record.’

NHS England has said there will be additional funding of IT to help patients make use of these technologies.

According to the BMA, the GPC will work with NHS England to ‘to develop a standard specification for IT systems within primary care’, which will result in ‘further investment into infrastructure’. This will ensure that ‘continued improvements are made to the digital offer’ over time.

Click here to read more from GPonline on the five-year GP contract

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