A survey of almost one million people has found there is a huge gap between patients wanting to and actually being able to book GP appointments online.
The seventh annual GP Patient Survey shows that 30% of people who answered the questionnaire said they would like to book their appointments online, up 1% from last year.
However, the survey, which was published last week, shows that fewer than 3 % of patients actually booked their appointments online.
The primary care trusts with the highest proportion of online bookings were Surrey and South Gloucestershire, where 8% of respondents said they had used the internet to book GP appointments.
The majority (90%) of respondents said this still had to book their appointments over the phone, so the results of the survey suggest there is significant pent-up demand for more convenient options.
EHealth Insider reported earlier this month that as a part of the government’s proposed GP contract changes, practices will have to offer patients online booking of appointments, ordering of prescriptions and viewing of test results in the next financial year.
However, the survey, which is run by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Department of Health, suggests that some patients are still wedded to older-style technologies.
Somewhat astonishingly, 1% of patients London PCTs said they would prefer to make an appointment via fax machine.
Although the majority of respondents said they were satisfied with their surgery opening hours, the survey shows that a significant number would still like longer opening hours, particularly over the weekend and in the evening.
Almost a fifth (16%) of patients responded that their GP’s hours were inconvenient. Of those, the majority wanted their surgery to be open after 6.30pm on weekdays and on Saturdays.
The survey, which is mailed out twice a year to a randomised sample of GP patients, had a 36% response rate.
More than half (53%) of patients who responded to the survey said they had a long-term condition.
The majority of them (64%) said they felt they had enough support to manage their health and 93% of patients were confident in managing their condition.
The majority of patients (88%) had a good overall experience of their contact with their GP.
The GP Patient Survey was redesigned for 2011-2012 in order to continue to gather the most relevant data on GP and NHS Primary Care Services.