More and more people opting for online prescriptions

Thousands more people in west Lincolnshire are opting to order their prescriptions online than two years ago, according to NHS data.

The Royal College of GPs has called electronic prescribing services ‘hugely successful’, saying online technology can benefit doctors and patients alike.

Thousands of people are now getting their prescriptions online. Photo: PA/Athony Devlin

Thousands of people are now getting their prescriptions online. Photo: PA/Athony Devlin

Over the past two years, 19,708 patients in the Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group signed up to request repeat prescriptions online, according to figures from GPs in the area.

The number of people registered with the service has gone up from 42,307 in October 2016, to 62,015 last month – a rise of 47 per cent.

The number of prescriptions ordered through GP online services has doubled since 2016.

So far this year, 236,273 prescriptions have been requested, the equivalent of 777 a day.

From January to October 2016, that figure was 116,714, or 383 a day.

The option to book appointments online has also become more popular.

The figures show the number of appointments booked, changed or cancelled online has risen considerably over the last two years.

This year so far, an average of 1,001 appointments a week were organised online, compared to 798 a week in 2016.

Online services are free and available to nearly everyone registered with a GP.

More than 99 per cent of practices in England now have this option available to patients.

Registered users can also access parts of their medical record through the service, including information about allergies, vaccinations and test results.

In west Lincolnshire, a quarter of GP patients are signed up for at least one online service.

The Royal College of GPs called online services a ‘benefit to GPs, practice teams and patients.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the college chairman, said: “GPs have always been at the forefront of new innovation.

“We pioneered both electronic patient records and electronic prescribing in the NHS.”

Prof Stokes-Lampard added that patients having online access to their GP surgery can be both convenient for patients and time-saving for busy doctors and practice staff.

She also said that electronic prescribing services that link surgeries directly to pharmacies have also been “hugely successful”.

However, she warned that whilst these services can undoubtedly benefit some patients, they might not be suitable for everyone.

“She continued: “That’s why it’s important that surgeries are also able to continue to offer more traditional means of delivering their services, for patients who prefer to speak to their practice directly.

“In an ideal world, practices will be able to offer all patients a wide range of different access to general practice services, but this would involve having the resources to do so.”

NHS England said it would seek to take further advantage of digital tools, whilst continuing to provide traditional services.

Juliet Bauer, NHS England’s chief digital officer, said: “The NHS wants to empower the public to take more control of their own healthcare.

“It’s incredibly positive that over 15 million, or over 25 per cent of, patients in England are signed up to online services in their GP practice and so many are going online to order repeat prescriptions and book GP appointments.”

Across England, an average of 120,000 prescriptions are ordered a day through online services, almost triple the number in 2016.