Online GP consultations 'to become widespread'

GPs will be forced to offer online consultations under DH plans to 'significantly increase' the use of technology in the NHS.

Internet: DH wants online consultations to become 'widespread'
Internet: DH wants online consultations to become 'widespread'

The government expects the NHS to provide more internet and technology-based services to help people manage their health and care.

Under plans from the DH, the option of e-consultations will become 'much more widely available' for patients.

By March 2015, patients must also be allowed to view medical records, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions over the internet. They should also be able to talk with their GP practice via email.

The NHS must also ensure GP patient records are transferable between different NHS providers. Greater use of telehealth and telecare will be prompted to three million people, as set out last year.

The move is one of a raft of technology-based changes to NHS and GP services under a new set of standards for the NHS called the 'NHS Mandate', launched by health secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday.

The mandate sets out how the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) should prioritise care and the outcomes it should pursue, such as improving dementia care and early diagnosis of cancer.

The NHSCB will use the 'ambitions' set out in the NHS Mandate and the NHS Outcomes Framework to performance manage clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

The mandate states: 'In a digital age, it is crucial that the NHS not only operates at the limits of medical science, but also increasingly at the forefront of new technologies.

'In particular, the government expects that by March 2015 ... everyone will be able to have secure electronic communication with their GP practice, with the option of e-consultations becoming much more widely available.'

NHS performance will also be exposed to far greater scrutiny in what the DH calls a 'revolution in transparency'. The health service will be required to publish outcomes data online for all major services by 2015 'to drive standards of care', according to the DH.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who unveiled the NHS Mandate on Tuesday, revealed the NHSCB will be handed a budget of £95bn for 2013/14.

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