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GPs must email patients instead of sending letters, says Hancock

GPs must send patients emails rather than letters, says health secretary Matt Hancock.

Speaking at an NHS England conference today, Mr Hancock said email must replace letters, arguing they are just as secure but also cheaper than communicating through paper and fax machines.

Clinicians should email patients directly with appointment information to reduce delays and cut wastage, he said.

This comes as part of the health secretary’s digital vision for the NHS, which was heavily promoted in the NHS long-term plan.

NHS organisations will be able to use ‘any secure email provider – not just NHSMail – if it meets the required security settings’, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

This will allow NHS organisations to ‘choose the best service for their needs’ and will encourage email providers to ‘innovate’, it added.

In his speech, Mr Hanock said: ‘Our mission now is to make it as easy as possible for GPs to communicate safely and securely with their patients and colleagues.

‘There is no reason why a doctor cannot email a patient confidentially, for example with their test results or prescription, rather than make them wait days for a letter or ask them to come into the surgery. The rest of the world runs on email – and the NHS should too.’

In December last year, Mr Hancock announced fax machines would be phased out of the NHS, meaning that trusts can no longer buy them through the NHS supply chain.

As of last year, NHS trusts owned over 8,000 fax machines. Mr Hancock has instructed the NHS to be fax-free by 31 March 2020.