Lots of patients tell us there are not enough appointments available to book through the NHS App. If an appointment can be booked over the phone, we recommend it should also be bookable online.
We recommend this because during the pilot we found that patients would continue to call in, rather than use the app, if there were fewer appointments available to book online.
The GP Contract Five Year Framework published on 31 January 2019 states that ‘all practices will ensure at least 25% of appointments are available for online booking by July 2019.’ This is a percentage of all appointments you offer in the practice, including nurse and specialist appointments.
The more types of appointments you can make available to book online, the more people will use the app and the more time this will save for reception staff. Providing better access to specialist clinic appointments, such as blood tests or mother and baby appointments can also help towards Quality and Outcomes Framework/Enhanced Services (QOF/ES) targets. However, it's up to each practice to make decisions about online booking that best suit how you work.
You can use features in your clinical systems to support your processes. These can include:
- using embargos, so that appointments become available online at the same time as your phone lines open
- limiting the number of appointments patients can have booked at one time - but be aware this will cap the number of total appointments, whether they are booked online, over the phone or in person
- using the messages that patients see on online booking systems to give patients more information to help them book the right appointment - if you use this, you should make sure it appears correctly in all the third party apps that you use
- if it's available in the system you use, asking the patient to specify a reason for booking, which can then help reception staff triage and contact any patient who has booked an appointment that's not suitable
The methods vary in different clinical systems. You can get support from your system supplier. We have provided brief guidelines on making your appointments available online within specific clinical systems.