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The waiting game

NHS offers £45m for GPs to implement electronic consultations

GP practices will be incentivised to offer ‘online consultations’ to patients through a £45m funding pot as part of a new injection of IT funding announced in NHS England’s General Practice Forward View.

The measures to cut GP workload, increase practice efficiency and help patients self-care will also see CCGs’ budgets for general practice technology investment increased by more than 18%.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously championed the use of e-consulting technology to improve access, and the GP Forward View states: ‘From 2017/18 NHS England will launch a new programme to offer every practice in the country over the coming years support to adopt online consultation systems. Depending on uptake, there will be up to £45 million extra investment to support this.’

NHS England has also introduced new ‘core requirements’ for IT setting out what services practices should expect to have funded by their CCG through the increased budget.

By the end of 2016/17 practices should expect to be able to message individual patients directly, by SMS or over the internet. This comes after funding for the national NHSmail system was scrapped last year leaving practices at the whim of local CCGs’ priorities.

 Other priorities for this year include:

  • Access to specialist support on information governance, cyber security, data quality and an annual practice IT review.
  • Capability to access patient records on mobile devices for home visits.

And one of the priorities for 2017/18 will see the e-referrals system, introduced to replace the unpopular Choose and Book, upgraded to allow two-way conversation between GPs and hospital specialists.

It will also ensure practice have access to:

  • Alerts when an electronic referral response is received, or not, and referral support tools.
  • Funding for the previously announced rollout of free wifi for patients and staff in all practices.
  • Funding for training practices and patients to use the new digital tools.

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Readers' comments (33)

  • Just wait until virtual reality headsets because more mainstream, then we'll be able to skype with the patient in 3D!!! Then we'll really get a good look at that papular rash :D

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  • You may be able to see rashes virtually but as John Glasspool mentioned, how are you able to feel lumps? Until they develop softwear to do this....

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  • There are not enough hours in the day to cope with my current workload......opening the floodgates like this will finish me off I think......a couple of patients have managed to get hold of my email address and have emailed with all manner of trivia, at all hours of the day and night, including those that simply say "I need an appointment please can you arrange and let me know when it is" ( giving me a long list of dates and times that aren't convenient)
    In the last week I have had a patient worried about a single 2cm bruise on his arm because he couldn't remember banging it and had googled it might be leukaemia, a mum worried about the fact her toddler had green snot, a man with a single episode of diarrhoea, and a lady with dandruff who had heard she could get her shampoo on prescription. Unfortunately an increasing number of patients do not value the NHS and attend with issues like this. Making it even easier to access a GP will simply increase demand even further.

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  • The photo Pulse chose for this article highlights a valid reason for electronic consultations. Lol.

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  • General practice is no longer a medical discipline. Its a social discipline.

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  • I know I need to get out more but it isnt clear what systems will be used. Many have servers based in the US which are subject to the Patriot Act. I am not convinced the Department of Homeland Security is that interested in Mrs Bluebottle's tingling in her caecum but they might be for other issues.

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator.

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  • Computer says.... 'Naaaaa'

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  • the system needs to be stabilised first. I have hundreds of worried well (I'm sure we all do)trying to run everything by me. If we open up this flood gate then it may push us over the edge.

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  • Jezza wants you to work 24/7 and improve access by cutting funding and give you more work. Now you cannot get away from work. Your phone will bleep with Mr Blogs wanting to know at 1am if the extra piece of cheese he take will affect his cholesterol.

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  • It'll be like having 2000 Facebook friends, but having to reply to all their posts.

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  • On the LMC for 30 years , I saw how these funds go to waste . A few practices earn £280 per patient and grab this extra while others keep struggling on £70 per patient with little energy left to grab more money.
    We all turned a blind eye as long as the rich ruled and the PCt paid.
    This will be more of the same ,like fund holding.

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  • On line or telephone triage, where the patient is not seen face2face is more intense and unsafe. A good example, how is one going to assess sepsis without examination. Are we not going to see children F2F, these are the most vulnerable.
    Either systems do not save time , in fact it is more time consuming and unsafe. It is not JH who will be in the dock if anything goes the gp will be Hh g to dry on your on.
    All these are gimmick, unsafe, unprofessional practice. Read GMC guide line again !!!
    Good luck to you all on this...glad to be out of the system.

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