Co-op is set to expand a repeat prescription app that will free up ‘thousands’ of GP practices in England, according to the retailer.
By autumn this year, patients will also be able to book and manage GP appointments via the app, ‘helping to free up thousands of GP practices across England’, according to Co-op.
Currently, the app covers 67% of GP surgeries across England. Following negotiations it is expected to be available in 98% of GP surgeries by the autumn.
The app was acquired by Co-op last year as part of its acquisition of healthcare technology start-up Dimec, and relaunched this week with the name Co-op Health.
Through the app, which initially launched in 2015, patients are linked to their GP surgeries and can order medication in ‘real time’.
Patients can choose to have their medication dispensed from Co-op’s distribution hub in Merseyside and delivered to an address of their choosing, or collect it from any pharmacy in England.
Chris Turner, co-founder of Dimec and integration lead at Co-op said: ‘It takes that pressure away from GP staff. I know a lot of surgeries don’t like taking repeat prescription requests over the phone, so you’re looking at having to physically call into the surgery or getting a pharmacist to order for people.
‘To prevent that massive footfall, and take up all that admin time, just order on the phone, straight through to the GP. Patients can’t order more than they need, can’t edit things.’
Mr Turner said the appointment service would also cut down workload in practices.
He added: ‘Another benefit for the practices is that there’ll be less people ringing up and I imagine GP surgeries across the country are Bedlam at 8 o’clock in the morning.’
Tim Davies, managing director of Co-op Health, said: ‘The pharmacy sector is at the start of a digital revolution, as consumers increasingly look for more flexibility and convenience in accessing their medication.
‘This app is just the start for our health business. We know 40% of the financial burden on the NHS is due to preventable diseases, and as we grow our health business we want to put the emphasis on proactive heathcare and empower people to take control of their own wellbeing.’
The move comes nearly five years after the Co-op sold its pharmacy business to Bestway Group, in 2014.
This week, RCGP predicted there would be an increase in digital appointments by 2030, alongside longer appointment times.
Earlier this month, a report found that automation in healthcare could free up 31% of GP time – the equivalent of £962m – due to improved productivity.
It follows the news that the NHS App pilot had ‘no negative impact’ on GP practices