This report analyses the feedback we have received from across Surrey – via our Helpdesk or website or from our community engagements – relating to the online journey into general practice. We have been particularly interested in the usability and accessibility of GP practice websites and to what extent this is in line with the guidance produced by NHS England in their Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care.
Our report identifies a number of key barriers to people utilising GP practice websites to complete tasks, most notably booking appointments but also consulting with the GP and practice staff. These barriers are around communication, information and flexibility in approach.
Having an adequate digital provision in place may not be sufficient if people remain confused about how to utilise it – people need to be appropriately communicated with about what the provision is and how to use it, and guided through the process if they don’t feel confident. This is particularly true for those with moderate to low digital confidence, lower levels of literacy and those working in a second language, as we know that poor online journeys disproportionately impact these people. There also needs to be an element of flexibility – though those who are able to use digital means should be encouraged to do so, nobody should be at an advantage or disadvantage based solely on how they contact their practice. Our findings suggest that there is still some way to go to realise this vision of equity of access.