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GPs in email consultations pilot report difficulty limiting access

GPs who offer patients email consultations may find it hard to pick and choose exactly who has access to the service, the first practice to pilot the scheme has warned.

Connecting for Health have claimed GPs will have complete control over which patients are invited to use HealthSpace Communicator, a new website allowing patients to directly email their GP.

But GPs at Stanmore Medical Centre in Harrow, north west London, have warned that while GPs have complete discretion over which category of patients are invited to use the system, they will have ‘no grounds' for excluding individuals within that category.

Dr Samia Hasan, a GP at the surgery and clinical safety officer for the HealthSpace Communicator project, told Pulse that while each partner had so far invited just four ‘frequent attender' patients with diabetes to trial the system, access would soon be extended to the practice's wider diabetes population.

‘If we're offering it to our diabetic population, I don't think you can just pick and choose,' she said. ‘Why just choose one patient over another? That's almost like inequality really.'

‘We would have no grounds to say no you can't use it. Obviously the limiting factor is internet access, but we've got no exclusion criteria.'

But Dr Gillian Braunold, clinical director for HealthSpace, insisted that GPs would retain complete control over which patients took part.

‘There will be no medico-legal requirement to use it, but really if a patient wanted it and they had a good relationship with one of their clinical team why would they not want to ‘bond', as we call the e-communicator link?'

Dr Hasan said that early experiences from the pilot, which began last month, had been very positive, with major time savings for GPs and patients in parts of the patient pathway, such as arranging routine blood tests.

‘Where it would have taken two to three weeks, we've done it in four to five days,' she said.

Access to the website is being extended to other practices in Harrow and will be piloted in a number of different primary care settings across the country over the coming months, ahead of a national rollout.

GPs piloting email consultations say it's difficult to pick and choose who has access (picture posed by model)

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