There has been a significant increase in patients registering for online services from their GP.
Over 385,000 patients are now using Patient Access - currently offered by around one in four UK GP practices - a 40% increase since 2012. In addition to booking appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions online, users can also update their contact details and securely message their practice.
The increase will be welcome news for the government, which has pledged to ensure that all patients have access to online services from their GP by 2015, as part of its ambition for a paperless NHS by 2018.
In Sheffield, over a third of all appointments with the University Health Service are currently booked through Patient Access. Fifty per cent of patients who use the diabetic clinic book their appointments online.
Ben Hallsworth, Medical Records Summariser with Sheffield University Health Service, said: "It's such a popular service. As well as benefitting the patients in terms of convenience, it also saves our reception staff considerable time - it takes pressure off them and the phone lines during the busy early morning period and allows them to spend more time helping patients who have more in-depth enquiries."
The popularity of Patient Access has also been boosted by the launch of a Patient Access app, which enables users to access the services via their mobile device. The app has received 27,296 downloads since March and was one of the first to be included in the NHS Commissioning Board's app library in March.
Wolverhampton couple Dawn Worrall (37) and Andy Dench (40) have been using the Patient Access app for more than six months, and have found it invaluable for speedy, convenient appointment-booking with their GP.
Dawn explained: "The app took about 60 seconds to download and it's very easy to use. I use my smartphone for everything, from emails to online banking, and my GP is a lot easier to access than my bank.
"It means that I can book same-day appointments quickly. I used to have to ring at 8.30, and I'd still be ringing back after nine, by which time there would be no morning slots left. I can pick timeslots to suit me. It also means I can choose which doctor to see. If you have on-going problems, you want to see the same doctor each time to save explaining things again."
Dawn added: "I also appreciate being able to book appointments for my two year old and 12 year old via the app. It's great to be able to find slots that fit round the school day. I think apps are the future for healthcare."
Partner Andy said: "I would definitely recommend the app as it is so easy and you can pick the doctor and time you see them. I work full time, so I can pick appointments to fit around my working hours. It also saves a lot of phone calls to the doctors first thing in the morning and then being told there's no appointment slots left that day. I think people of any age could use this service."
Release date 14 August 2013