A £45 million national programme will be introduced for GPs to increase uptake of online consultations with patients.

Funding will also be available to cover the hardware, implementation and service costs of implementing free wi-fi for staff at patients at all practices from April next year.

The newly released GP Forward View says the government will invest a further £2.4 billion a year by 2020/21 into general practice services.

Part of this investment is a £500 million multi-year Sustainability and Transformation package, part of which will go towards the greater use of technology to enhance patient care and streamline practice processes.

It says practices will be able to bid for additional technology resource as part of the Estates and Technology Transformation Programme in order to stimulate the uptake of new technologies.

NHS England is also launching a programme from April 2017, worth up to £45 million, to specifically encourage the adoption of online GP consultations. A national framework for purchasing e-consultation tools will be ready by December 2017.

The GP Forward View says that one way of reducing GP workload is by helping patients manage their minor illnesses using online resources, which will be funded under a new £30 million ‘Releasing Time for Patients’ programme.

This includes giving patients online access to accredited clinical triage systems and an accredited apps library.

Funding to support education and support for patients and practitioners to use digital services will be available from December 2017.

Under the latest GP contract, all systems suppliers already offer practices a series of patient transactional services such as online appointment management, repeat prescription requests and access to their detailed record and test results.

The target is that at least 10 percent of patients will be using one or more online services by the end of this year.

Further technology promised in the 'forward view' to help reduce practice workload is the creation of new ‘automation of tasks and appointment software’ by April 2017.

“Clinicians are frequently required to undertake a series of tasks on the computer when putting a care plan in place or responding to incoming correspondence,” the document says.

“We will work with innovative practices, federations and software suppliers to develop, test and implement the technical requirements for a new task automation solution to reduce workload.  

The GP Forward View also outlines a major programme of work to ensure that by 2020 all incoming clinical correspondence from other NHS providers is electronic and coded.

As previously reported in Digital Health, all discharge summaries must be sent electronically and using approved clinical headings by the end of this year.

“For 2017/18, the intention is to strengthen this by requiring electronic transmission of clinic letters within 24 hours,” it adds.

Enhancements to the new NHS e-referral system should also reduce the burden on GPs by allowing two-way conversations between GPs and specialists, alerts to let GPs or other practice support staff know when a response (or no response) is received and decision support tools to help direct referrals correctly.