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Government refuses to combine online and telehealth DESs

The Government has rejected the GPC’s call to combine the online access and telehealth DESs, but has acknowledged that its plans to roll out remote monitoring for certain patients will not be implemented in full until 2014/15.

In its official response to the consultation on the GP contract in England for 2013/14, the Department of Health reiterated its desire to introduce the two DESs, despite GPC concern many practices are ill-equipped to offer online access and will find themselves further overstretched by the additional workload and the obligation to deliver the technology without additional funding.

The GPC also warned that security and confidentiality issues need to be addressed before online access can be implemented broadly.

But the Government said that the planned ‘phased implementation’ of the online access DES - which will see patients being offered online booking of appointments and repeat prescriptions in the first phase and accessing test results and medical records online in the second - was sufficient to allay those concerns.

The DH said the GPC’s solution to combine the two DESs was rejected on the grounds it would not guarantee access to enough patients.

However, it also made a slight concession to the GPC around the telehealth DES. It said: ‘The Department’s expectations have been modified in view of the consultation responses to reflect that preparatory work may need to take precedence in 2013/14 and that the focus may be on supporting a range of long term conditions rather than any single long term condition. However, this does not require changes to the legal directions to the board.’

The NHS Commissioning Board is currently developing the detailed specifications for both new enhanced services.


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