MORE than 13,000 online requests - used to book appointments and access medical records - were made to GPs in Barnsley over the latest six-month period.

GPs across the country have been working to install online systems for patients to book appointments, see their doctor and access medical records.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the use of these systems increased dramatically as practices sought to limit the transmission of the disease.

For the first time, figures on how often these systems are being used have been released.

Data from NHS England shows 31 GP surgeries in the town received 13,949 online submissions between April and September.

This was equivalent to 2,325 every month.

Of these, 6,843 were clinical in nature - an enquiry relating to a medical problem, for instance.

While 7,105 were administrative - such as requesting a fit note or regular prescription.

The NHS has said that it does not yet have comprehensive figures on how many of the 269,000 registered patients in Barnsley have used or have signed up to online GP systems.

They also caution not all GP surgeries are yet able to submit data on online submissions.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said there was no ‘one-size-fits all’ solution to using online platforms.

“Many practices find online triage systems an efficient way of managing demand and ensuring patients receive the most appropriate care for their health needs in a timely way,” she said.

“Other practices have reported these systems don’t work as well for them, actually increasing demand, particularly at certain times of the week such as Monday mornings.”

Professor Hawthorne added that technological improvements ‘can only go so far’ in addressing patient needs.

“We still desperately need to see substantial funding commitments to address the pressures general practice is currently facing,” she added.

Across England, 2.4m submissions were in September alone - 1.6m of them clinical enquiries.

The NHS says nearly 5,000 GP surgeries are using online systems, around three-quarters of all GP surgeries across the country.

A spokesperson said: “Every GP practice must provide patients with the option to contact them via telephone, online or in-person.

“The NHS published a plan earlier this year to recover access to GP services, which includes upgrading telephone systems and improving online access tools to make it easier for people to contact their general practice.”

The move online has helped residents order repeat prescriptions, book appointments and contact a healthcare professional for advice.

And Dr David Crichton, local GP and chief medical officer for NHS South Yorkshire, said that those who don’t use the service won’t see their treatment affected.

He added: “his service allows you to view your GP medical record securely over the internet from a computer or smart phone, free of charge.

“By accessing your GP record online, patients can view important information such as consultation notes, letters and test results at a time that is convenient to them which can help some feel more supported and in control of their health and care.

“The service is completely voluntary - treatment will not be affected in any way for anyone who does not wish to use the service.”