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GP services go digital

Published: 16 Oct 2015 12:30

£6 million to extend online booking and prescription ordering

Over £6 million will be invested over the next three years to increase the number of GP surgeries across Scotland offering digital services such as online appointment booking and online repeat prescription ordering.

The investment, which forms part of the Scottish Government's £60 million Primary Care Fund, will be used to support individual GP practices to develop online appointment booking systems and pilot the use of e-consultation services in 'early adopter' practices.

Work will also be taken forward to develop a patient portal where patients will be able to access their own personalised electronic health records.

The Scottish Government has begun work with health boards to help GP surgeries reconfigure their current IT systems where necessary, ensure all practices have the appropriate security controls in place and provide support to train practice staff to operate the online systems.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "In recent years, we have seen the number of people using online services for day-to-day tasks increase dramatically. More and more of us are now rightly expecting companies and organisations to have a digital presence and be able to offer services through the internet. The NHS is no different and I have been very clear that I want to see GP practices accelerate their use of digital services such as online appointment booking and repeat prescription ordering – at the very least.

"Not only is it convenient for patients, it also reduces the administrative burden on GP practices, freeing up their staff to get on with other tasks. Those GP practices that have already started offering these services have spoken highly of the benefits they have brought to their practice.

"That is why we are investing £6 million over the next three years to take this project forward more quickly. In conjunction with local GPs and their health board representatives, we'll be using this funding to overcome some of the start-up issues that we know some GPs are experiencing.

"We'll also be working with certain pioneering practices to expand the digital services they offer even further – funding IT solutions to give patients online self-help content, sign posting options, symptom checkers, access to NHS 24 clinicians and the ability to consult remotely over the internet with their own GP."

The Ellon Medical Group, just outside Aberdeen, have a practice list size of 16,000 patients and use an online appointment booking and repeat prescription ordering service. They also use an automated appointment reminder system which has reduced the number of patients not attending appointments.

Anne Marie Walsh, Practice Manager at Ellon Medical Group, said: "Here at Ellon Medical Practice we offer an online repeat prescription ordering service and an online booking service for GP appointments.

"In the past year alone, 13,520 prescriptions have been ordered online. By using this service patients can order prescriptions and book online at their own convenience and it also frees up our phone lines. We also use mobile phone numbers to send out appointment reminders and the patients in turn can use this service to cancel appointments.

"In the first year this saw a reduction of failure to attend appointments decrease by 23 per cent. Both the patients and staff find all these new services extremely beneficial."