This site is intended for health professionals only

Digital telephony being adopted by 100% of GP practices, says health secretary

Digital telephony being adopted by 100% of GP practices, says health secretary

Every GP practice in England is now working towards adopting digital telephony, the health secretary has said.

Speaking during a debate on access to primary care in the House of Commons yesterday, Steve Barclay told MPs that 100% of practices ‘want to put digital telephony in place if they have not already done so’.

This year’s GP contract imposition stipulated that GP practices must procure cloud-based telephony once their current contracts expire.

The primary care recovery plan, published in May, announced £240m of funding for practices to ‘embrace latest technology’, with a focus on replacing old analogue phone systems.

Mr Barclay said: ‘Through that £240 million, we have 100% adoption from GP practices that want to take part in receiving those funds and putting digital telephony in place if they have not already done so.

‘This includes call-back, which allows people to know where they are in the queue, and links to online booking, which allows us to maximise the 31,000 additional roles that we have put into primary care so that people can see the specialist that they need.’

MPs pointed out that despite this their constituents still struggle to access a GP over the phone when they need it due to structural issues.

Tan Dhesi, Labour MP for Slough, said: ‘People are finding it nigh-on impossible to see their GP when they need to.

‘Labour has pledged to guarantee face-to-face appointments when people want them by training more NHS GPs but, as my constituents point out to me, under the Tories, a two-tier healthcare system is emerging where some are forced to pay to be seen quicker while those that cannot afford it are left behind in agony.’

Conservative MP for Aylesbury Rob Butler said: ‘We have some absolutely fantastic GPs and some brilliant services being delivered […] however, there are still challenges for constituents to get through to their GP surgery to make an appointment in the first place.’

In August, NHS England’s primary care director Dr Amanda Doyle told Pulse that having a new telephone system ‘is not the answer on its own’, and that it must be combined with other digital tools to improve patient experience.

‘What we’re talking about when we talk about modern general practice access is the combination of cloud based telephony, high quality digital triage and flow tools, and high quality communications platforms.

‘That actually changes the operating model. It’s not just about telephones. What we do know about telephones is that being able to properly signpost, queue, call back through phones makes a difference to patients,’ Dr Doyle added.

Earlier this year, Pulse revealed that almost half of GPs who have already implemented ‘modern’ access measures prescribed by the recovery plan say it has not helped improve access.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Dr N 18 October, 2023 4:31 pm


David Jarvis 18 October, 2023 6:13 pm

Doesn’t create one single appt or answer one single phone call. Of zero added value. Although for us the recording of all calls has caused a plummeting of complaints.

Daryl Mullen 18 October, 2023 6:33 pm

Across Lancashire this afternoon our linkage between the clinical system and the telephony system has been hobbled by poor internet connectivity.
We have the nice shiny phones but the internet isn’t reliable so very little benefit

Iain Chalmers 18 October, 2023 7:51 pm

Usual rhetoric but doesn’t actually solve the issue.

A visit to real earth might be helpful??

David Church 18 October, 2023 8:01 pm

Wasn’t it made effectively mandatory ?

I have always used my manual digits to dial numbers on my phone anyway, so I suppose you could say I have been dialling digitally since 1984.
I also use Digital Examination for rectal symptoms.
Should I use Mr Barclay’s phones in the same way ??

Michael Green 18 October, 2023 9:20 pm

Well that’s one set of Tory donors satisfied

Adam Crowther 19 October, 2023 7:32 am

Failed to mention the real winner here being the selected telephone companies who have been able to charge large sums for their “super duper new service” surely the companies should have just offered these services as a gesture of goodwill like the rest of us in General Practice 🤔

Past Caring 19 October, 2023 8:59 am

Leaving aside purchase and installation costs, the ongoing maintenance charges are the real money spinner for the suppliers of shiny new systems.