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Run GP appointments like Lastminute.com, say NHS advisers



GP appointments should work like Lastminute.com to fill ‘spare capacity’ and make booking slots more convenient for patients, say NHS England advisers working on plans for a ‘paperless NHS’.

In ideas welcomed by the Department of Health, the report suggests GP appointment booking could work like the travel and entertainment website, where consumers can find leftover trips and tickets at knock-down rates.

The report was published this week by Intellect, the trade organisation for the UK technology industry, and also suggests Choose and Book could work like accomodation search engine hotels.com, and routine treatment could be ‘commoditised’ by learning from the airline industry’s online services.

It also said that doctors should have their own Facebook style online community to share experiences and that health records information should be shared using cloud technology, similar to free file-sharing site Dropbox.

Earlier this year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt challenged the NHS to adopt all of the aspects of the Government’s IT strategy and achieve a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2018.

Intellect has been working with NHS England on how to implement this idea using examples from the consumer technology industry to improve patients’ online and mobile access to healthcare.

The report called for the market in the NHS to be opened up to competition to allow small and large companies to provide solutions. Click here to read the full report from Intellect

It said: ‘Change is needed to enable competition and innovation. We need to remove barriers to entry and in particular to create the right environment to allow innovation to flourish by start-ups, small and large companies.

‘The rise and accessibility of the Internet and its positively disruptive structure has allowed us to innovate and develop new services and communication channels we just didn’t have only a few years ago. It is nothing short of a Digital Revolution.

‘Wouldn’t it be great if the NHS could run its business and services in a similar way? There is a huge gulf between the ways we as consumers access Internet services to those that are available from the NHS.’

‘Wouldn’t it be good if we could get a Lastminute.com style of appointment service to fill spare capacity across the NHS?’

Jon Lindberg, associate director of the healthcare programme at Intellect, said: ‘The overall target for [the] Lastminute.com [style service] is for the patient to have convenient access to health services when they want wherever they are.

‘However, the benefits for the health service is a better realtime view of demand and capacity, free up slots that are cancelled, automate processes (being done in GP practices already – but not as widely used as it could be), and link to the record of patient.’

But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said the report was overly simplistic.

He told Pulse: ‘Lastminute.com is not what people want for general practice consultations. They want somebody wise, who knows them, who has got access to their records.

‘This is another piece of [the Government’s] pathetic analysis that says “I want it now” rather than “I want quality”. Well OK, if you want that now, I am sure somebody somewhere could provide it at appallingly low standard of care. Technology is not the solution, technology is a tool.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Intellect has been working with NHS England. It is obviously work that the Department welcomes.’