Harry Longman, an engineer who developed a new system to streamline GP appointment booking has been awarded the John Perry Prize at the BCS Primary Healthcare Specialist Group’s annual conference.

The prize was set up by John Perry with profits from his OXMIS GP coding system to recognise outstanding contributions to primary care computing.

Entries are now assessed by a panel of judges drawn from the BCS Primary Health Care Specialist Group, which held its annual general meeting and conference last week.

Longman, who is the founder and chief executive of GP Access, received this year’s prize for his work on an appointment system based on GPs phoning patients to arrange a time.

Using the GP Access system, receptionists take phone calls and in 60% of cases, the GP will phone the patient back.

60% of those calls can then be dealt with on the phone, without the need for a further appointment, while the rest are offered a same-day slot with enough time to deal with their problems.

The Navigator metrics software allows GPs to see information such as average call and appointment lengths, as well as demand for appointment times.

Longman told EHI the focus of the system is on providing practices with more information about how they operate and allowing them to manage their appointments more efficiently.

“Clinical information is obviously very important, but the operational side of a GP practice has been neglected.

“When do patients come in, how long do they have to wait, and how do you match capacity to that demand? All of that is very important for patient satisfaction and GP work rates.”

PHCSG committee member and press officer Robert Treharne-Jones told EHI that GP Access is now used in more than 100 practices around the country, with all offering daily appointment slots and no waiting lists.

Treharne-Jones said Longman’s software to assess metrics “really provide the backbone of the whole set-up” and can help to show there is no need for GPs to open for longer hours.

“This can help to dispel the government’s idea of surgeries opening until 8pm, because there is almost no demand for appointments that late in the day.”

The Young Informatician Prize went to Manchester GP and PhD student Dr Ben Brown for his work on improving medical audits and feedback tools by analysing academic standards of care and undertaking data collection analysis.

Treharne-Jones said Brown has developed an audit tool with a number of algorithms to access clinical systems, based on the “key factors” of being customisable, quick to use and web-based.

“People don’t have the skills to build interventions based on the feedback they get from audits…it’s of great relevance, particularly in a field where we’re trying to build evidence-based care.”

Treharne-Jones said conference attendees were pleased with the quality of sessions, including a discussion on GP databases which was topical given the debate about the care.data programme.

“People really emphasised the message about how trust in data and trust in people handling the data is so important, and that’s one aspect that seems sadly lacking in those who are looking after care.data,” he said.