Poor up-take by patients in ‘email-your-GP’ pilots

Poor up-take by patients in ‘email-your-GP’ pilots

By William Smith

The Government projected that four million people would sign up for a pilot scheme which would give patients 24/7 online access to GPs across England.  This projected figure was expected by the year 2014, however, this has been dealt a severe blow with the news that only 89 patients from a potential total of at least 30,000 have agreed to take part in the pilots of its Communicator system, according to ‘Pulse’.

Communicator is part of the NHS's Healthspace project which allows GPs to have secure electronic contact with patients, similar to an email. Starting in 2009, the system has been piloted in different care settings across six locations.

The Pulse report says that Healthspace Communicator, which provides patients with email access to GPs via a secure online platform, is being piloted at six sites across England, the locations of which the Department of Health refuses to divulge..

Pulse informs us that it has learned that only 36 doctors have agreed to take part and that one pilot has already been forced to close.  This response from patients and GPs is very much in contrast to comments made by Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, when last month her said that online consultations with GPs ‘opens up the spectre of 24/7 access.’

The Department of Health has admitted that just 89 patients had signed up for pilots and that business case for Communicator was ‘under review’   According to Pulse only 3,119 people have registered for an advanced account and 182,000 for a basic account on the umbrella Healthspace system since 2009 compared to the projected figure of four million people by the year 2014.

‘They are still framing this as a problem that needs a technical fix, rather than engaging with the more complex issues of whether and how people manage their health,’ said Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, a GP and author of a study of Healthspace.  

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