This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

Gold, incentives and meh

Get top value from your practice website

As practices become more businesslike a website becomes a necessity, says Dr Mark Smith

As practices become more businesslike a website becomes a necessity, says Dr Mark Smith

Why have a practice website?

• To promote yourself.

• To free up telephone time by allowing patients to book appointments or order prescriptions.

• To inform patients of your services: if you promote something on a poster in the practice, some people will never see it.

The first steps

You can make a website for yourself and save yourself a lot of money.

First you need to register a name that is unique to your practice – a domain name.

Your internet service provider (ISP) may be able to do this. When we set our website up there weren't many of the usual domain name endings such as or .com left, but we did manage to bag for £10 a year and kept the rest of the URL snappy by using our practice's initials.

Once you've got your name you need to make your site. Windows users can get Microsoft Front Page free from their PCT IT support department. Apple Mac users can use iWeb, which comes free with all new Macs.

Creating your website

Keep it simple to start with.

Have a home page that links to all the other parts of the website. Our website has a homepage, a prescription order page and an appointment page link to Emis Access which provides prescription ordering, appointment booking, changing of address details and new registration booking for users of Emis LV. PC users can only use the appointment module so far.

Patients can view, book or cancel appointments online and find it very useful for times when the practice is closed or telephone lines are busy. It is even possible to use Emis Access from some mobile phones. Not only are these features extremely useful for patients , they also free up the reception telephone from routine enquiries.

As we are EMIS PC users we haven't got all of these clever features yet. So we added a web page from a free service called Wufoo forms (you can Google Wufoo for more information). Now we have a bespoke prescription order page that even lets the patient specify where they want to pick up their prescription from. This is especially useful for us as we have a dispensing branch surgery.

Other pages you should include

• A document of the history of the practice.

• Useful phone numbers and contacts.

• How to contact out-of-hours services.

• When is a home visit appropriate?

• Prices for non-NHS services and medicals so that people don't get confused when they are asked to pay. Make sure these have been upgraded for VAT if you are registered.

• Travel vaccinations, including a form to download so that the patient can bring it in with their travel itinerary. This makes life much easier for your practice nurse.

• A registration page with a downloadable form for prospective patients to print and fill in at home. An internet search for GMS1 will find one you can incorporate.

Get your website on the web

Once you have your website it needs to be hosted somewhere. We used my home ISP as it doesn't cost anything extra. If you Google 'website hosting', you will find plenty of professional companies charging as little as a few pounds a month that can also do this for you. When you need to make changes to the site, your hosting company will help you upload the changed pages.

Advertise your website

Let patients know your website exists. Advertise it. Add the website name to your repeat prescription page. Write a short piece for your local free paper saying that patients can now book appointments and get prescriptions online.

Put up posters on your front door so that even at weekends existing or new patients can find out more about you (and register).

Slightly more difficult is getting your website recognised by Google. There is a lot of advice on the web about how to do this successfully, but many weeks may pass until Google has you listed. The best advice is to make sure your homepage has your practice name and location so that when somebody is typing in GP surgery in Fredstown, Google has a chance of finding it.

If everything in this feature sounds too much like hard work, you can always search Google for dedicated companies that can design and host a GP website for you. But expect charges to be as much as £600 a year. Ours costs about £25 a year.

Click here to see how our website works.

Dr Mark Smith is a GP in West Moors, Dorset

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say