A think tank has called for people to be given the option to register with the NHS nationally rather than with a GP in order to speed up the adoption of online services.

In a “manifesto” supported by Dr Foster Intelligence and Microsoft, the 2020 Public Services Trust says an organisation like NHS Direct should take responsibility for patients who would “prefer to have their primary relationship with the NHS through telephone and digital channels.”

The trust, which is hosted by the RSA, says this organisation should look after their records, encourage patients to take up immunisation and screening, and hold contracts with local providers for when they need physical care.

It argues that radical action is needed to encourage digital public services to become the norm.

“ICT use in public services has simply not kept pace with its application in other areas of our lives,” says former Dr Foster Intelligence head Tim Kelsey in a foreword.

“For the most part, our relationships with public services follow old models of physical access and data about service delivery is not held or shared in ways that promote challenge and innovation. The case for a digital and information revolution in public services is compelling.”

The report lays out seven “building blocks” for a revolution. It says that the “default assumption” should be that public services should be delivered online, and that this would free up traditional services to focus on the disadvantaged and digitally excluded.

It says service providers should not only be required to publish information about the performance but release the underlying data to third parties to create a market in information on quality; with the government’s role limited to “delivering what the market will not do.”

Alongside this, it argues that public service workers should be personally responsible for the accuracy of the information they provide about their performance.

And it says there should be a “public good” test to require service users to consent to information sharing.

The report, which was based on expert seminars, lays out a “vision” for “self-service, online healthcare” based on these building blocks.

It says every patients should have a “My NHS” homepage with links to their health records, the ability to book appointments, and to leave comments on health services.

It says the homepage should also give people access to a range of health coaching services, and that the whole package should be taken onto “high traffic forums” such as Mumsnet and Bebo, where health is frequently discussed.

Link: Online or in-line: the future of information and communication technology in public services.