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DES to radically expand online GP services in two years

GPs will be expected to radically ramp up the online services they offer to patients – including email access to practices and full medical records -under the terms of a two-part new direct enhanced service released by the Government.

Under the draft terms of the DES, in 2013/14 practices will have to offer patients online booking of appointments, online ordering of prescriptions and making selected test results available online.

From 2014/15, GPs will also have to make further tests results available online, provide secure electronic communication within the practice and offer online access to medical records.

The DH’s draft document said: ‘The specific aim will be to reward practices that enable current IT functionality of systems that support online patient booking of appointments, online ordering of repeat prescriptions (including eventually electronic prescription service, and online access for patients to test results and medical re cords and who promote greater usage of these services by their patients.’

But Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, said: ‘Making all medical records accessible to patients on line would mean that patients who most need medical confidentiality would find it virtually impossible to protect their privacy.

‘They will be obliged to reveal their records under financial, physical or emotional  duress. Third parties ranging from abusive partners, school bullies to employers, financial organisations and other government departments such as the Department of Work and Pensions. They will inevitably resort to what is known as “enforced subject  access” because it will be so much more easy for them.’

The DES will be funded by the cash released from the abolition of the organisational domain of QOF.

The minimum requirements of the Improving Online Patient Access Scheme will be agreed between the NHS Commissioning Board and GPs.

(CLICK HERE FOR FULL COVERAGE OF THE GP CONTRACT CONSULTATION)

Readers' comments (7)

  • This is a joke and is simply not worth even trying to offer. It will be a full time job responding to a minority of patients asking questions day and night about them them them!

    Thank goodness I retire soon.

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  • Do you remember when a surprised PM Tony Blair was hijacked by the lady that explained to him that implementation of a pooly thought through policy had resulted in her not being able to get an appointment more than 48 hours ahead?

    Wait until the flood gates open by email and anyone who feels like asking a question night or day drops it into the secure electronic postbag.

    Nearly 5,000 text messages are sent every second in the UK. My point is - it seems like a great idea at the time - popular with the voters - it has no cost associated with the sender - before you know it it has spiralled out of control and the respondent has no additional resources to respond.

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  • The inverse care law, this will make health inequalities much worse, well done.

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  • Worth looking at the evidence where other systems have done this though e.g. Kaiser and others. Done well, fewer visits, as patients become more confident managing their own LTCs. Online booking is a no brainer - free up receptionist time for other things.

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  • We have already done this 2K patients with access to their entire record, online booking test result viewing etc.
    It works.
    But no saving on staff time as numerous queries re IT issues usually relating to patient's IT configuration.

    What the BMA needs to push for is a centralised Help Desk.

    GPs cannot bury their heads in the sand, like it or not patients will expect these online services.
    When it works well it does save staff time.

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  • I have mixed feelings on this one. Could be a way to reduce appointments, but my patients just seem to want to be SEEN for the most trivial of reasons. Agree about the helpdesk, as even wirth the basic online services such as appointment booking and repeat script ordering we get a lot of patients with technical issues. However, one thing no-one has commented on is that this is a DES - so it is voluntary isn't it? Why the "have to" tone in this article then?

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  • Ah, I see, anything that makes it is easier for patients to access their GPs is by definition wrong and dangerous. Has it ever occurred to you lot that it is important for patients to communicate easily with their doctors? And if handled right can save you and the patient a load of vexatious appointments? Maybe even save their lives. But no, anything digital has to be wrong for GPs, who are just not prepared for new ways of working.

    What was it it they use to call the workers who smashed up weaving machinery at the end of the 18th century: lud....s?

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