In January this year, the GPC and NHS England unveiled the details of a five year contract for general practice that sets out significant contract changes. These include a number that are technology related for which NHS England has said there will be additional IT funding to help patients use them.
Although the size of individual practices continues to grow with the increasing numbers of practice mergers, takeovers and list dispersals, the proportion of practices with their own dedicated IT manager is still relatively small. It is important, therefore, for practice teams to be aware of what is coming and what is expected of them as early as possible in order to be sufficiently prepared to confidently implement the new technology related requirements within the set timescales. In addition, as with any developments in the methods for patients to access existing services or be made aware of new ones, there will be a need for a comprehensive communications plan, an implementation plan including time for staff training together with all the extra time that will be necessary for supporting patients, responding to and dealing with queries and all the other associated pressures from service and system changes.
- From July 2019 practices will be expected to make 25% of appointments bookable online with a view to enabling all patients to have the maximum possible access to online appointment booking within a timescale to be notified
- All patients should be able to order repeat prescriptions electronically from April 2019
- From April 2019 – and only after triage – NHS 111 will begin direct booking of practice appointments. Practices will be expected to make one appointment per 3,000 of their patient list available for this purpose every day
- Guidance will be issued in advance of April 2020 when all practices will be expected to provide online and video consultations.
- From April 2020 all patients should have online access to their full record which will include the ability for them to add their own information as well as access online correspondence
- Practices should not use fax machines for NHS work or for patient correspondence after April 2020
- Practices will be expected to ensure that data relating to activity, capacity and waiting times is accurately recorded so that it can be captured by NHS England
- As well as a practice leaflet, all practices will need to have an up-to-date and informative online presence by April 2020 with key information made available for other platforms to use and so provide that information via another source
- NHS England will develop a new measurement of patient reported satisfaction with access for which the data collected will be published by 2021.
As with any changes of the magnitude of the above list, it is not unrealistic to anticipate the odd delay or general slippage. However, unless or until there is formal notification of later timescales, the advice is to have an achievable project plan in place with formal progress monitoring to ensure a set of timely scheduled implementations by a well-informed, properly prepared practice team.