Online consultations - GP and practice team engagement

Closed 15 Jun 2018

Opened 8 May 2018


Your thoughts on ‘online consultations’ as an alternative to patients attending your practice in person

NHS England is using technology to empower patients and make it easier for clinicians to deliver high quality care and enabling patients to seamlessly navigate the service as part of its digital transformation strategy. The Online Consultations programme is a contribution towards this ambition.

Online consultations are a way for patients to contact their GP practice without having to wait on the phone or take time out to come into the practice. Using a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can contact your practice about a new problem or an ongoing issue. You can ask questions or tell your GP about your symptoms. The practice will ensure your contact is dealt with by the right person in the team, helping ensure you are served as quickly and appropriately as possible. Sometimes this will mean you will need a phone call with the GP or nurse, or an appointment at the practice, and this will be arranged as usual.

NHS England is providing funding to CCGs to support GP practices to offer online consultations to patients.

NHS England wants to get your views on using online consultations within your practice, in particular, to help CCGs, STPs and NHS England understand what support you might need to provide online consultations.


The range of online consultations systems or ‘tools’ available to GP practices varies but the approved suppliers all offer a similar range of functions.  

GP practices will have a choice of systems they can put in place to allow online consultations for patients (using a computer, tablet or smart phone rather than attending the surgery, in person, for an appointment). 

Primarily, patients would complete an online form, on your website or through an app, which is delivered electronically to your practice and you may then provide the most relevant response.

The new online consultation tools simply bolt on to your existing practice website without the need to change working patterns or adopt new technology.  The tools offer functions and benefits such as:

Triage – capturing a patient’s symptoms and sending one, succinct report clearly highlighting areas of clinical risk and their likely severity, so GPs can assess in seconds the right course of action.

Where possible, many systems use standard industry scoring systems such as; PHQ9 for depression and GAD7 for anxiety.

Alerts – tools can red flag serious symptoms signposting patients to seek urgent medical attention when needed and clearly highlighting areas of potential clinical concern in the GP report helping to diagnose time sensitive and life-threatening illnesses at the earliest opportunity.

Time-saving – early trials indicate that 2-3 patients can be reviewed in the equivalent time it takes to conduct one 10-minute, face-face appointment.

Patients have their symptoms remotely assessed by their own GP without the need to visit the surgery in person, negating the need to take time off work or use holiday days for the sake of a 10-minute consultation.

Improved access – patients have 24/7 access and get an initial assessment of symptoms plus immediate advice about the next steps to take to get treatment for their condition.

It can also benefit people with a disability or condition who have difficulty attending the practice in person.

  • Social prescribing and signposting – assessing a patient’s needs and direct them towards other primary care providers where appropriate.
  • Improved outcomes – reduces the time to a successful patient outcome by educating patients on how to self manage their symptoms at home and signposting them to the most suitable services that can provide effective treatment solutions.
  • Cost and efficiencies – many systems are priced per head, per patient, so the cost is directly proportional to the size of your practice.

NOTE: Online consultations are an alternative service – it is still possible to do other things on the practice website such as seeing test results and your medical record, ordering a repeat prescription or booking an appointment, which you may be providing already.

Your views are valuable to us and we would appreciate it if you could find the time to complete this survey by Friday 15 June 2018. The short survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Insight collected from this survey, along with other forms of engagement, will be analysed by NECS (North of England Commissioning Support) on behalf of NHS England. This insight will help determine the most appropriate support and resources needed for both practices and patients to adopt online consultations as an enhancement to currently available online services.

You can find out much more about the programme on the NHS England website.


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