An NHS pledge to roll out a new online GP registration service to 2,000 GP practices by the end of the year has been achieved ahead of schedule, NHS England announced Friday.
The online Register with a GP surgery service, managed by NHS England, has been designed to make the process simpler and more convenient for both patients and GP practices.
The service allows patients to go online at any time of day to find and register with a local GP without having to visit the practice in person.
More than 750,000 patients have already used the service since its launch in 2022, with one in three GP practices now offering the service.
GP practices process 6.8 million registrations a year, with many still using paper forms, often requiring patients to visit surgeries in person to collect and submit paperwork. The online tool has been shown to save GP practice staff admin time.
An ambition of reaching 2,000 GP practices by the end of December 2023 was set in the Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care – a milestone achieved a month earlier than expected, with more than 2,100 surgeries enrolled by the end of November 2023.
Dr Amanda Doyle, national director of primary care and community services for NHS England, said: “Online GP registration is one of the many innovative ways the NHS is transforming how practices work to make it as easy as possible for patients to get the care they need.
“At a time when record numbers of patients are coming forward to see their GP, it helps free up the time of busy practice staff so they can spend more time focusing on patients, and less time filling in paperwork”.
Patients do not need ID, an NHS number or proof of address to register with a GP. People registering online can also use translation tools alongside the service, making it more accessible for those whose first language is not English.
The most recent figures show two thirds (66%) of patients use the online service to switch GPs, while 23% were visitors or migrants, including international students. Other submissions included patients registering with a GP for the first time (5%), newborns (4%) and ex-military patients (1%).
Service available out of hours
Almost half (48%) registered outside normal GP surgery opening hours and one in 10 accessed the digital service in another language.
Katie Howard, practice manager at Cleevelands Medical Centre in Cheltenham, said: “It saves our surgery staff between three to five minutes per patient. When you consider we get 25 registrations a day, that is a significant amount of time we are saving to invest back into the patients”.
Professor Bola Owolabi, NHS England’s director of health inequalities, and a GP in the Midlands, said: “We know health inequalities exist within our communities, which is why we are pleased to see our online Register with a GP surgery service is making such a huge difference, by reducing barriers to registration and widening access to good quality healthcare.
Patients can access the service using individual GP surgery websites, the NHS website’s Find a GP service and the NHS App. They are also encouraged to verify who they are using their NHS login where possible, but this is not essential.
Register with a GP surgery is available to all practices across England and is free to use. Registration is quick and easy, with the service automatically checking patients live in the catchment area for their new GP surgery. It also matches patients to their NHS records, further reducing admin for GP surgeries.