All 23 GP practices in the Borders have a website, none offer an online appointment booking service, and only three have an online prescription service.
Details of GP practices across Scotland and how accessible they are to patients were looked at by Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, and how the Borders practices operate was echoed across Scotland during the 2012-13 study period.
Of the 994 GP surgeries in Scotland, 670 (67%), have a website; 511 offer the ability to order repeat prescriptions online; 389 advertise extended opening hours online and 10% allow online appointment bookings.
In Berwickshire no GP practices were offering an online prescription service, and only the Merse had extended hours, although that has changed in recent months.
Research highlighted wide variation in availability of appointments with some practices only offering appointments on the day, while others allowed them to be booked up to six weeks in advance.
Reform Scotland’s Director Geoff Mawdsley said: “This report is not about the medical care provided by individual doctors or practices, but about the practical arrangements as to how patients access their GPs, and whether we can’t improve arrangements.
“Surveys such as the Scottish Government’s Health and Care Experience Survey tend to suggest that while the public often praise the care they receive, there can be frustrations with the difficulty in accessing that care to begin with.
“We were surprised that in 2014 just 67% of GP practices have a website and only just over half allowed you to order a repeat prescription online or by email. The results are particularly disappointing considering that 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.”
NHS Borders Medical Director, Dr Sheena MacDonald, responded: “All GP Practices in the Borders operate as independent contractors. They provide services under the nationally negotiated GMS contract. There is currently no specific requirement within that contractual arrangement to offer either online prescribing or Practice websites. The decision will lie with individual Practices on whether or not to introduce online bookings. NHS Borders are supportive of the use of online prescribing and websites to improve communication with patients and improve access to services. Currently no GP practices in the Scottish Borders are using online booking or online prescribing services.
“The majority of GP Practices in the Scottish Borders continue to deliver the extended hours service. GP Practices are able to decide when they choose to deliver the additional hours outside of normal opening hours and are encouraged to tailor this to best use the resource to improve access for patients unable to attend the surgery during working hours.
Reform Scotland recommend practices provide clearer information about their services and advocate opening new GP surgeries.