Posted on 25 August 2023

​A revolutionary online registration service started by the NHS has seen 425,000 people enrol in the first year. With GP surgeries still using paper forms and clipboards, almost 15 minutes per patient has been saved in administration time without the burden of paperwork. Perhaps the best part is that the service allows anyone to register with a GP at any time of day, reducing the burden of patients needing to adhere to the opening times between childcare and careers. Nearly 50% of those using the service were registering outside their normal GP surgery opening hours.

Meanwhile, almost 70% of the nearly half a million people over the last year were switching their GP – with other reasons including getting involved with primary care for the first time, new children registering with the service and ex-military patients. Two thirds (68%) of patients using the service over the past 12 months were switching GPs. Other submissions included patients registering with a GP for the first time, newborns and ex-military patients. It’s a no brainer for patients, but only 1 in 5 surgeries have so far registered to be available on this service – a surprisingly low number when you consider the amount of administration and time saved. By 2023, it’s hoped that 2,000 surgeries will come onboard and potentially transition to a mostly online model, but of course paper registration will always be available at the surgeries themselves.

Stephen Koch, NHS England’s Executive Director of Platforms, said: “We’re pleased to see one in five GP surgeries are now part of the national online Register with a GP surgery service, giving patients an improved experience and helping to reduce known barriers that exist with GP registration. Patients no longer have to visit a surgery to register as they can access the service any time, outside working hours, using the internet or NHS App. It is free for GP surgeries to use and saves them time by making the process much simpler”.

Last year, millions of people began using the NHS app as many people were seeking to better understand their own health after the pandemic. Alongside patients being able to look up medical conditions with the NHS’ dedicated pages for conditions, treatments and explanations, individuals are allowed to book appointments, access tertiary services and order repeat prescriptions. Speaking back in 2022 and commenting on bringing the NHS into the 21st Century, interim Chief Executive at NHS Digital, Simon Bolton, had this to say; “Thousands of people are using the app every day and we’ve seen a big increase in the use of other features in the app, including registering organ donation preferences. App users are also helping to free up time for GP surgeries by using the app to book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online.”

The move into the digital age for a service almost perpetually logged in bureaucracy and archaic structures is refreshing and will certainly aid in how patients view accessing the doctor and potentially knock down some of those barriers to entry. Speaking on the impact of being able to get to more patients, Dr Matt Curtis, a GP at Holycroft Surgery in Keighley, said: “Being able to register online saves people a trip into the practice to collect a paper registration pack, and it also saves time for our staff team as the information goes direct into the GP workflow seamlessly, making the process easier for everyone. The feedback is really positive – more and more people are gaining confidence to use digital tools for accessing health services. Registering with a GP online is easier and more convenient for many people”.

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