A THIRD of GP practices in Scotland do not have their own website and just one in ten allows patients to book appointments online, a report has revealed.
Research by independent think-tank Reform Scotland criticised wide variations in how patients were able to access their GP, after finding that just 67 per cent of practices had a website and only around half allowed repeat prescriptions to be ordered online.
In addition, only 10 per cent of Scotland’s 994 GP practices allowed appointment bookings online. Reform Scotland said this was despite a 2010 report by the Royal College of GPs and the Scottish Government suggesting such practices should be adopted.
The think-tank also highlighted variations in how appointments were made available across different practices, with some only allowing bookings to be made on the day while others allowed patients to book up to six weeks in advance.
And less than two-fifths of practices advertised extended opening hours online, such as early-morning or evening appointments.
Reform Scotland’s director Geoff Mawdsley said: “We believe that it is simply unacceptable. We were surprised that in 2014, just 67 per cent of GP practices have a website and only just over half allowed you to order a repeat prescription online or by e-mail.
“The results are particularly disappointing considering the Royal College of General Practitioners, in partnership with the Scottish Government, developed a ‘toolkit’ in 2010 highlighting the usefulness of the internet in the development of GP service.”
Reform Scotland also called for an end to a ban on private companies being allowed to run GP surgeries, pointing out that most GPs are independent contractors anyway.
Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GPs committee, said: “While Reform Scotland has picked up on the important issue of access to general practice, I could not disagree more with its recommendation to end a ban on private companies opening GP practices.
“GPs are not directly employed by the NHS, but they are small and flexible and can adapt to immediate demands such as the provision of care during the swine flu pandemic.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “While there are more doctors per head of population in Scotland than across the rest of UK, and we are investing in services, we accept we must do more to make access to GPs even easier.”