Ministers are to expand schemes allowing patients to book GP appointments online | UK | News

Under the Scottish Government’s flagship eHealth Strategy 90 per cent of surgeries are supposed to offer such digital services by the end of this year.

But new research has revealed just four health boards have reached the goal despite pledges to use technology to bolster frontline care.

Think-tank Reform Scotland found only a quarter of NHS Highland practices offer online appointments booking and/or repeat prescribing.

This stood at 45 per cent in Ayrshire and Arran and 50 per cent in Shetland, according to figures released in response to a freedom of information request.

It comes after the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland (RCGPS) waned patient safety is being put at risk as surgeries are forced to shut because of staff shortages.

An increasing number of patients also face having to queue outside surgeries “for the uncertain opportunity merely to register with a GP”.

Two years ago Health Secretary Shona Robison pledged £6million to introduce web-based “patient portals” to help reduce the administrative burden on staff and free up more time for clinical duties.

Reform Scotland said that while most patients positively rate their care four out of five complaints in a recent official survey were about access to GPs.

The majority of surgeries operate as private sector contractors to the NHS, which means it is up to each individual practice whether or not they introduce online services.

The think-tank called for NHS boards to allow new GP surgeries to open up alongside existing practices to create competition and give patients more choice.

It also wants improvements to NHS Scotland’s Inform website to provide more detailed online information.

Research director Alison Payne added: “The Scottish Government and the Royal College of General Practitioners have recognised the benefit of offering more services, such as repeat prescriptions and booking appointments, online.

“Yet it is clear from these figures that too few people can benefit from these…

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