Our review sought to identify whether a practice’s website was its own or it relied on NHS Choices (or another such website) and how it easy it was to find the website; ease of navigating the website was then tested (where there was more than a single page).
Surprisingly, given the ambition shared by both the NHS and the government for NHS services to become “digitalised”, there is no obligation on GP practices to maintain websites.
Many GP practices are not yet taking full advantage of the power of that technology to bring information to their patients and a significant number of GP practice websites lack key information (some in breach of contractual obligations). Some are doing an excellent job in doing so; others are doing only the bare minimum (if that!). While, clearly, GPs have many calls on their time and not all will be as technologically minded as others, specialist software providers are available who can help design, maintain and keep up to date comprehensive websites.
- That Havering CCG (or its successor body) work with every GP practice in Havering to review its website to ensure that it complies with the contractual obligations imposed upon it.
- That Havering CCG (or its successor body) work with all individual GP practices to ensure that their websites contain as much useful information for patients as possible.
- That Havering Health Limited and each Primary Care Network support their respective members to secure the required improvements in website presence for patients’ benefit.
- That Healthwatch England make representations to NHS England and the Secretary of State to amend the Regulations so that practices have a contractual obligation to ensure that the information required to be included in the practice leaflet must also appear on their websites and that reliance on NHS Choices as the primary online presence for practices is discouraged.
- That Healthwatch England discuss with the CQC amending registration requirements to ensure that practices are registered using the name by which they are known – for example, “The Mill Practice” - rather than by the names of the doctors in partnership and that where a doctor leaves a practice, his or her name no longer appears in the practice name or its registration.
We will review websites again later in 2021 to see what improvements have been made, and we will follow up our recommendations with the CCG and others to ensure that, as the NHS "goes digital", patients are able to access services promptly and with ease.