The Royal College of GPs has called electronic prescribing services “hugely successful”, saying online technology can benefit doctors and patients alike.
Figures from GPs show that in October this year, there were 39,373 patients in the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group signed up to request repeat prescriptions online.
That’s 18,267 more than in October 2016, when 21,106 people were registered – a rise of 87%.
The number of prescriptions ordered through GP online services has more than quadrupled since 2016.
So far this year, 157,633 prescriptions have been requested. That’s the equivalent of 519 a day.
From January to October 2016, that figure was 36,080, or 118 a day.
But while more people are taking advantage of online prescription services, booking appointments online has become less popular.
The figures show the number of appointments booked, changed or cancelled online has fallen considerably over the last two years.
This year so far, an average of 469 appointments a week were organised online, compared to 665 a week in 2016.
Online services are free and available to nearly everyone registered with a GP. More than 99% of practices in England now have this option available to patients.
Registered users can also access parts of their medical record through the service, including information about allergies, vaccinations and test results.
In South Tyneside a quarter of GP patients are signed up for at least one online service.
The Royal College of GPs called online services a “benefit” to GPs, practice teams and patients.
College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “GPs have always been at the forefront of new innovation: we pioneered both electronic patient records and electronic prescribing in the NHS.”
Prof Stokes-Lampard said that patients having online access to their GP surgery can be both convenient for patients and time-saving for busy doctors and practice staff.
She added: “However, whilst these services can undoubtedly benefit some patients, they might not be suitable for everyone.
“That’s why it’s important that surgeries are also able to continue to offer more traditional means of delivering their services, for patients who prefer to speak to their practice directly.”
NHS England chief digital officer Juliet Bauer said: “The NHS wants to empower the public to take more control of their own healthcare.
“It’s incredibly positive that over 15 million, or over 25% of, patients in England are signed up to online services in their GP practice and so many are going online to order repeat prescriptions and book GP appointments.”
Across England, an average of 120,000 prescriptions are ordered a day through online services, almost triple the number in 2016.