We recently began a private beta trial (testing an early version of a service at small scale) of Register with a GP with six GP practices across England. We want to know how it works with real patient registrations and use what we learn to improve the service. Currently, the service allows people to submit their registration details and supporting information to participating practices online.

We’re doing this to understand what practices and patients need most from the service. This is a crucial step in delivering a digital alternative to the existing largely ‘pen and paper’ process – which typically involves the standard GMS1 patient registration form and other ‘new patient’ forms created by practices.

Both patients and GP practice staff are users of this service, and we need to make sure we understand and meet all their needs so that the service actually works in practice.

We want Register with a GP to be:

  • quick, easy and convenient for patients
  • simple, efficient and comprehensive for GP staff

Here’s what the private beta will soon look like:

Providing your NHS number helps the practice find your existing records within the system, here the service explains how you can find it

Providing your NHS number helps the practice find your existing records within the system, here the service explains how you can find it

Once you have submitted your application, you may need to take proof of your address or identity to the practice. Here the service explains what you should do next.

Once your application is submitted, you may need to take proof of your identity or address to the practice. Here the service explains what you should do next.

Understanding what GP practices need to know about you

During our discovery and alpha phases, we learned that GPs need to know more about new patients than just the information required to register them – for example, the kinds of support they may need, and key things about their health.

When they register, practices generally ask new patients about these things via new patient information forms. They do this primarily to get a better sense of the patient’s needs. Many GPs use details from the form to inform discussions at initial health checks (or sometimes to assess the need for them).

We analysed a range of ‘new patient’ forms from different practices to understand both what information they asked for and how they ask for it

We analysed ‘new patient’ forms from different practices to understand what information they ask for, how and why

 We tested prototypes of our service with potential users and noted what they noticed, liked and struggled with

We tested prototypes of our service with potential users and noted what they noticed, liked and struggled with

We did a lot of analysis of the kinds of information asked for in these forms. Ultimately, we determined that our service needed to include some ‘new patient’ information as well as registration information – as having to provide this separately would be more wasteful for both practices and patients.

We’ve worked with our trial practices to come up with a prioritised view of all the things they need to ask for, and included the most important things in our ‘minimum viable product’ for private beta.

We’ll be adding to this as we go and – more importantly – thinking about how best to do this for both practices and patients.

Looking at the bigger picture

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking to:

  • analyse feedback from service users and our 6 GP practices and using this to improve the service
  • expand the private beta to include more practices in key groups – e.g. GPs near a university (which have lots of registrations around the beginning of term)
  • understand how we prepare ourselves technically and organisationally to scale efficiently in future (e.g. to dozens or even hundreds of practices)

In the longer term, there are also other big questions for us to address to make the service work for the the majority of practices and patients. In all of this one of our biggest challenges is to ensure our service meets the diverse needs of the 7600 GPs in England – for example:

  • many practices ask for supporting proofs (e.g. ID and address) as part of the registration process – though practices can differ in what they ask for. We’ll be working with our colleagues in the Citizen Identity programme to explore how people might be able to provide these proofs online.
  • in many cases (particularly with existing paper processes) practice staff have to spend time entering patient registration data onto their systems. We’ll be exploring options for how to make our service digital from start to finish, in a way that is simple and efficient for practice staff.

GP practices come in many different shapes and sizes. While they have a lot of needs in common, individually each has a different context which shapes how they choose to meet them. We want to provide a service that can meet the most important needs whilst bringing simplicity, consistency and convenience for everyone who uses it.

We’re always keen to hear from people who might benefit from our work or be able to help. If you’re interested in learning more, please get in touch.

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