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Check your system settings

Most GP practices are now connected to the NHS App. Practice managers or IT leads should take these steps to make sure your patients have the best possible experience when they use the NHS App to connect with your practice.

Check your system settings

All practices using TPP or EMIS systems are now connected. Practices using Microtest or Vision systems will be connected later. Your clinical commissioning group will contact you when a connection date is confirmed for your practice.

When we connect your practice to the NHS App, your patients will be able to use the app to connect with your clinical system to:

  • book and cancel appointments
  • order repeat prescriptions
  • view their record

The app uses NHS login to give most patients access to these services without having to come in to the practice.

What patients see in the NHS App depends on the specific settings you have used in your clinical system.

Check your appointment settings

The NHS App will show any appointments you have made available for online booking within the next 30 days. After your practice is connected, you can set up a test patient to check how your appointments appear in the app. You can then make some changes in your clinical system if you find they are needed, to improve your patients' experience when they use the app.

You don't have to take any specific steps in order to be connected - it happens remotely, and most practices are now connected. Because of this, it's very important that you check how your practice services appear in the app.

1. Set up a test patient

When your practice has been connected, you should set up a test patient so that you can check how your appointments appear to patients in the NHS App.

The app works by connecting a patient to their GP record in your clinical system, so you need to set up a test patient in both the clinical system and the NHS App.

Set up a test patient in your clinical system

Your test patient needs to be aged 16 or over, and have an NHS number and account in your clinical system, with patient online services activated. You might already have a suitable account set up.

Record the full name, postcode, linkage key and account ID to use later.

You need a test NHS number to use that's present on the central NHS system, Spine. If you don't have one, you can contact nhsapp@nhs.net to request one.

Set up a test patient in the NHS App

You will need:

  • an apple or android phone or tablet, to download the app
  • an email account (set up a free one if you don’t want to use one you already have)
  • a mobile phone number, so you can get a text message even if you’re using a tablet
  • the full name, postcode, linkage key and account ID of the test patient account
  • the practice’s ODS code

Download the NHS App, choose your practice from the list, and follow the instructions to set up the account. Use the test patient details you recorded to link the NHS login account to the test record in your clinical system. See Getting started with the NHS App: the patient journey for more details.

You can then test the appointment booking service, and make more changes in your clinical system if you find you need to.

2. Make appointments available for online booking

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, for TPP SystmOne and EMIS systems. Guidelines for Vision and Microtest will be available soon.

Making appointments bookable online in TPP SystmOne 

  1. Check the settings in Online Services > Appointment Booking. 
  2. Make sure 'Enable appointment booking' is checked. (You have probably already activated this for GP online services.)
  3. Decide whether you want to allow booking to all slot types, rota type and clinicians, or specify which ones. Use the radio buttons to do this.
  4. If you choose to specify, a dialogue box will open - move the ones you want to make bookable over to the list on the other side.
  5. When you specify which are bookable, make sure they match what is bookable over the phone, particularly for general appointments and daily emergency appointments.

Making appointments bookable online in EMIS

  1. Check the settings in the Appointment Book tab.
  2. Highlight the slots you want to make bookable online, by clicking and or dragging, or using ctrl-click.
  3. Right click, select 'Slot Properties', and make sure the Patient Facing Services check box is ticked.
  4. Make sure the appointments you have made bookable online match what is bookable over the phone, particularly for general appointments and daily emergency appointments.

You can also update your appointment templates to make appointments automatically bookable online.

  1. Click on 'Create Session'.
  2. Select 'Load from template' at the bottom left of the pop-up box.
  3. Select the session template you want to amend - it will load up in the session preview on the right hand side.
  4. Highlight the slots you want to make bookable online, by clicking and or dragging, or using ctrl-click.
  5. Right click, select 'Slot Properties', and make sure the Patient Facing Services check box is ticked.
  6. Click 'Apply and Close'
  7. Save the template.

Any future appointment sessions the template is applied to will be made available online.

3. Use language that patients can understand

We recommend that you rename appointments you are making bookable online so that patients can understand what the different appointment slots are for - for example use 'blood test' rather than 'phlebotomy'.

We recommend this because during the pilot, we found the most common complaint from patients was that they could not understand the appointment names.

You should:

  • use simple and easy to understand language (the average reading age in the UK is about 9 years old) and avoid abbreviations, clinical terms or technical language

  • be clear about the purpose of the appointment - do not use 'default' and if appointments are only for specific groups then state this clearly, for example 'Women only cervical screen'

  • be concise and start with the most important information - long names do not always display on the screens of mobile devices.

The methods will be different in different clinical systems. You can get support from your system supplier. We have provided brief guidelines here for TPP SystmOne and EMIS. Guidelines for Vision and Microtest will be available soon.

Names of clinicians

You do not need to include the clinician name or time of day in the name of the appointment, as this is displayed separately. It's a good idea to check how names display, and include (M) or (F) to indicate the clinician's gender, as research shows this is important to patients when they book appointments.

Naming appointments in TPP SystmOne

In TPP SystmOne patients will be able to see the slot type and the rota type. You need to set both to be easily understandable. Only administrators can set the custom appointment slot types and rota types.

To change the name of the slot type:

  1. Select Setup > Appointments > Slot Types from the main menu.
  2. Highlight the slot you want to change by clicking on it, and choose 'Amend Slot Type'.
  3. Edit the name and description, and click 'OK'.

To change the name of the rota type:

  1. Select Setup > Appointments > RotaTypes from the main menu.
  2. Highlight the rota type you want to change by clicking on it, and choose 'Amend Rota Type'.
  3. Edit the Name and click 'OK'.

Naming appointments in EMIS

In EMIS patients can see the Session Name and Slot Type.

To change the Session Name:

  1. In the Appointment Book tab, click on 'Create Session' and then choose 'Load from template'.
  2. Edit the Session Name and click 'Save as template'.
  3. If this session template is already in use, a pop-up will appear asking you if you want to update existing sessions - choose Yes to rename them.

To change the slot type:

  1. In the Appointment Book tab, click on 'Appts Config' and choose 'Slot Types'.
  2. Click on the slot type you want to edit, and click 'Edit'
  3. Change the Name and click OK, and then OK again.

Related pages

  1. internal

    Guidance for GP practices on the NHS App

    Check your systems, find out what staff need to know, get posters and other materials to tell your patients about the app, and hear from GP practices that are already using the NHS App.

Last edited: 21 November 2019 2:20 pm