Tayside set to miss SNP target for booking GP appointments online

British doctor taking senior woman's blood pressure having a check up in consultation room

GP surgeries across Scotland are failing to hit a government target for patients accessing services online.

Only a quarter of practices in Tayside allow appointments to be booked on the internet, which is one of the lowest in the country, according to figures compiled by a think-tank.

Reform Scotland said “too few” patients are given the opportunity to use the internet for things such as ordering repeat prescriptions and arranging to see their family doctor.

Miles Briggs, for the Scottish Conservatives, said the web offers “great potential to save time and resources in our under-pressure GP surgeries” and called on the SNP to do more.

While only 25% of Tayside surgeries permit booking a slot online, 91% allowed repeat orders of prescriptions, according to data obtained from health boards.

In Fife, 72% of its practices offered online services in those categories. The Scottish Government has demanded 90% of surgeries do so by the end of the year.

But one Dundee GP has warned that online bookings are “not always a good thing”.

Dr Andrew Cowie, who is chairman of the area clinical forum in Tayside, said an online system does not allow staff to assess which patients need to be seen ahead of others.

“It means that people can book up large numbers of appointments that aren’t necessary and then there are fewer left for more important problems,” he added.

He added that some patients struggle to use the internet, adding: “The last thing we want is to use a system that reduces the number of appointments available for elderly or deprived populations.”

Dr Miles Mack, from the Royal College of GPs in Scotland, said the profession is “keen to embrace new technologies” but added online services “may not necessarily be the priority for practices operating under such intense strain”.

Anas Sarwar, for Scottish Labour, said that “yet again the SNP has proved unable to manage IT projects”.

“Being able to book appointments or order repeat prescriptions online could make a huge difference to many people and help ease the strain on our under-resourced GPs,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said they are spending an extra £500m a year by 2021/22 to “transform primary care”.

“That transformation will be supported by the latest technology, including offering more services online.”