The National Health Service said that over 425,000 patients have utilised its new national online service to complete GP registration within its inaugural year. The GP surgery registration service, managed by NHS England, has granted NHS patients efficient and user-friendly access to GP registration since its inception in August 2022.
According to the NHS, more than 1,400 GP surgeries, a fifth of the national count, have joined the NHS online registration service as part of a new plan to improve access to primary care. “This aligns with a new strategy to enhance primary care access, with a target of enrolling 2,000 practices in the Register with a GP surgery service by December 2023.”
Many GP surgeries still use paper forms, requiring patients to visit surgeries to collect paperwork. However, the new online service has been shown to save GP surgery staff up to 15 minutes per registration by helping to reduce paperwork and admin time, the NHS said.
The NHS said that this service enables patients to register with a local GP online at any time, eliminating the need for in-person visits and simplifying the process for both patients and GP surgeries.
Nearly half (48 per cent) of all users of the online tool completed their registrations outside the standard operating hours of GP surgeries, taking full advantage of improved accessibility and convenience, the NHS further said.
In the last 12 months, two-thirds (68 per cent) of patients using the service were switching GPs, while other submissions included patients registering with a GP for the first time, newborns, and ex-military patients, it added.
“We’re glad to note that one in five GP surgeries are now part of the national online Register with a GP surgery service, enhancing patient experiences and addressing barriers associated with GP registration,” said Stephen Koch, Executive Director of Platforms at NHS England. “Patients no longer need to physically visit a surgery for registration. They can conveniently access the service outside working hours through the internet or NHS App. This service is free for GP surgeries and streamlines the process, saving them time.”
“The feedback has been highly positive for online registration – an increasing number of individuals are becoming comfortable with digital tools to access healthcare services. Online GP registration proves more accessible and convenient for many,” said Dr. Matt Curtis, a Keighley-based GP at Holycroft Surgery in West Yorkshire.
“At a time when an unprecedented number of patients are seeking GP appointments, this initiative exemplifies the NHS’s commitment to reshaping practice operations for optimal ease of care access,” said Dr. Amanda Doyle, NHS England’s National Director of Primary Care and Community Services. “It helps free up the time of busy practice staff so they can spend more time focusing on patients, and less time filling in paperwork.”
Patients can access the service by visiting individual GP surgery websites or through the NHS website’s Find a GP feature, which is also available via the NHS App. Registration is quick and easy, with the service automatically checking that patients live within the catchment area of their new GP surgery. It also matches patients to their NHS records, further reducing administrative tasks for surgeries, and is compatible with online translation tools.
“We’re streamlining needless bureaucracy that consumes the valuable time of skilled clinicians and primary care personnel, allowing them to focus on their foremost priority – patient care,” said Health Minister Neil O’Brien. “This stands as another prime instance of an augmented online service benefiting both patients and primary care staff, and I’m delighted by its successful implementation.”
“As an extension of our Primary Care Recovery Plan, we’re persistently broadening digital tools for those who wish to avail themselves, whether it’s for appointment scheduling, seeking guidance, or service registration,” the Minister added.
An updated paper form has been developed for GP surgeries in England that provide the online service. The revised form incorporates the same standardized questions as the digital service, minimizing differences in the patient experience. This design has been shaped by input from both patients and GP surgeries.
Meanwhile, NHSE recently announced plans to include 210 community pharmacy sites within 42 integrated care boards as part of the initial stage of its independent prescribing pathfinder programme. This endeavour seeks to assess various prescribing models and enhance the structure for incorporating independent prescribing in clinical services within community pharmacies.