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NHS Mandate pledges to boost e-consultations with GPs

The health secretary has today unveiled the final mandate for the NHS Commissioning Board including a commitment for all patients to be able to email their GP practice by 2015 and plans to expand e-consultations by GPs.

The mandate also includes a commitment to introduce personal health budgets for ‘all patients who could benefit’ by 2015, subject to the results of the ongoing pilot programme.

The document includes a range of targets for the NHS Commissioning Board to work to from April 2013 to March 2015, but the targets within it have been substantially watered down from the draft version published earlier on in the year.

The document aims to improve clinical outcomes and patient experience of care, with indicators including measuring patient experience in GP practices, creating a smooth transition between primary and secondary care for patients and patients being presented with choices for their care.

In a major move towards modernising primary care, the strategy includes a commitment for all patients to have online access to their patient record, the ability to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online, and the ability to have secure electronic communication with their GP practice by 2015.

 It also says that e-consultations should become ‘much more widely’ available.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘None of these ambitions can be realised without the wholehearted support of GPs.

‘They are an incredibly important part of this process because they are now running CCGs. We won’t just see buy-in to the ambitions but also much more ability to deliver them, when it comes to, for example, integration on the ground.’

Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair welcomed the reduction in ‘micromanaging’ that he claimed characterised the draft version of the mandate published earlier on in the year.

 He said: ‘The BMA is keen to discuss the practical implementation of some areas of the mandate, such as how the NHS takes advantage of new technological and IT developments.

‘These proposals will require significant resource and technical commitments that must be considered if they are to become a reality.

‘It is also vital that any changes that affect patient records do not in any way compromise patient confidentiality, especially if they may be placed online. The NHS Commissioning Board must consider this matter very carefully before any implementation.’