Patients 'should be able to register with NHS Direct instead of GPs'

Patients should be able to register with telephone and online services, such as NHS Direct, rather than a GP, a think tank suggests.

According to the Public Services Trust an organisation such as NHS Direct would take primary responsibility for patients who opted to register with the NHS nationally rather than with a local GP, including maintaining their records, contacting patients for routine immunisation, screening and monitoring appointments and providing them with a dedicated telephone number and email address for all their health needs.

Physical care would be provided through subcontracting arrangements with local providers and would be bookable by patients themselves or through the central agency, the report said

It suggested this ‘radically different' option would suit transient population groups, as well as those who travel significantly or rarely visit the doctor.

The think tank outlined that the public sector has only just begun to exploit the potential of these kind of ‘self-service transactions', and said the barriers to reform are more cultural than technical.

The report, called Online or in-line: The future of information and technology in public services, said: ‘Except for extremely acute care and very short periods of intensive intervention to fix people up so that they can go on with their lives, the primary job of the health service when people are ill is to help them understand what is wrong, how to look after themselves and how to stay well. That is a far cry from how we run the NHS today.'

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