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Why make it easier to book an appointment?


I don’t want the blame for your grandmother’s internet addiction, says our new blogger Dr Pete Deveson


A government task force, headed by Baroness Lane-Fox, wants GPs to be contractually obliged to increase the percentage of patients who book appointments online by 10% each year. Despite the fact that GPs have been obliged to provide online access since April, only 2.7% of appointments are booked via the internet. It’s the classic Department of Health algorithm: pay GPs to do something; discover no one wanted the thing; penalise GPs for this. This comes from the same numpties whose response to the nationwide apathy about Sunday GP opening is to threaten to hardwire it into the contract.


Online or nothing Let’s leave aside the fact that without the guiding hand of an informed human, patients might book inappropriately for things like travel jabs, suture removal or 30-minute DVLA medicals (to quote genuine examples from the last month). I’m no Luddite, but I’m not entirely convinced that we need to make booking appointments more convenient; I’ve got patients who could find their way onto my morning list if the booking form was etched onto a Golden Snitch at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Taking money from us if we don’t prioritise online booking will lead to the receptionist saying: ‘I’m sorry, we’ve filled our quota of phone bookings, you’ll have to go on the website.’ Now I book flights online because


taken away a process they used to manage independently. To be fair, the Baroness showed an


awareness of the Inverse Care Law in her speech, but her solution – ‘training programmes for staff to ensure they’re confident in recommending technologies’ – smacks of that dreaded phrase ‘GP are ideally placed…’ I’m worried my new role as your nanna’s IT support will distract me from my core GP duties like checking her boiler’s okay and grassing her up if she looks like she might run off and join ISIS.


airlines make it near impossible for you to do it any other way; it takes a zillion clicks to find a phone number on the British Airways site and that’s just a gateway to 90 minutes of hold music. I’m not sure if this is more convenient for me, but you can bet your bum it saves the airlines a ton of wages. But when Ted and Vera over the road need to visit their family in Australia, they knock on my door asking if I’ll book it on my computer. The digital revolution has


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App-ocalypse The idea of a link between practice income and the competence of my elderly patients is worrying. I don’t want to spend 2019 sweating over whether we’ll lose QOF points because Vera can’t get past Level 97 of Candy Crush. And think of the complaints. ‘You showed my grandad how to use an iPad and now he’s silver surfing the dark web.’ You can be sure that when Skynet becomes self- aware and we’re enslaved by Terminators the Daily Mail will trace it back to the lazy GP who gave nanna a router. But ultimately this feels like another


Get to grips with online records access 1 CPD HOUR Page 82


exercise in pre-iceberg deckchair rearrangement. The reason it’s hard to get an appointment is we have too few GPs trying to do too much with too little money. No app will solve that.


Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him @PeteDeveson


Read Pulse’s full range of blogs at pulsetoday.co.uk/ blogs


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