Many Scottish GPs failing to provide online bookings

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Scottish GP surgeries are set to miss a target for online repeat prescription and appointment bookings, research has found.

The Scottish government target was for 90% to offer these services.

But think tank Reform Scotland has established only four health boards are on track to deliver the changes.

The Scottish government said it was investing money in primary care which will support the introduction of the latest technology.

NHS Highland is one of the poorer-performing health board areas. Just a quarter of practices there offer online appointment bookings and/or repeat prescribing.

Reform Scotland said that, as private sector contractors, most GP surgeries were free to decide for themselves whether to offer online services.

But it has called for NHS boards to allow new GP surgeries to open up alongside existing practices.

'Greater choice'

The think tank argued this would stimulate competition and offer patients more choice.

Research director Alison Payne said: "The Scottish government and the Royal College of General Practitioners have recognised the benefit of offering more services, such as repeat prescriptions and booking appointments, online. Yet it is clear from these figures that too few people can benefit from these services.

"Ever since the NHS was created, it has always been the case that the majority of GPs were private contractors, just like opticians. If we can choose where to get our eyes tested then we should be able to apply the same flexibility to choose our doctor."

She added: "By giving people greater choice over their GP surgery this will give them much greater influence over the way services are developed."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are committed to investing an additional £500m a year by 2021/22 to transform primary care. That transformation will be supported by the latest technology, including offering more services online.

"Investing in new systems means GPs will be able to access and record medical information more quickly, giving them more time to spend with patients during consultations."

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