Health Minister launches online GP appointments and repeat prescriptions service

Date published: 08 December 2016


Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has officially launched online services for booking GP appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions from GP Practices.

The Minister visited Grove Wellbeing Centre in Belfast to see how accessing services online can help improve patient experience and reduce bureaucracy in primary care services. 

The Health and Social Care Board has been working with NI Direct to expand public facing online services and make them more readily available to citizens of the north of Ireland. Booking a GP appointment and ordering repeat prescriptions online are now available from 200 of 344 GP Practices in the north.

Speaking at the official launch of the initiatives the Minister said: “I am delighted to be here today to hear and see how new services to allow people to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online are helping to make life easier for patients – providing extra convenience and choice about how they interact with the surgery, whilst also helping to reduce paperwork for staff.

“As I set out in ‘Health and Wellbeing 2016 - Delivering Together’, modern information technology offers us tremendous potential to improve how we interact with people to improve services for them. It will not only be more convenient for patients but will also save GP practices time and resources in dealing with appointment booking and repeat prescriptions. 

“Since April 2016, 93,910 GP appointments have been booked and 547,715 prescriptions have been ordered online.  In October 2016, 14,125 GP practice appointments were booked online - an increase of almost 1,900 from August 2016.  In October 2016, 79,981 repeat prescriptions were ordered online – which is slightly over 17% of the total prescriptions issued by GPs each month.  It is clear these services are needed and well used already, so this expansion is particularly welcome.  Since my appointment as Health Minister I have continually urged the health service to seek out what works well and replicate it where possible – this is a perfect example and I would encourage people to actively use the facility where possible.”

Through nidirect people can search for their GP practice, identify if it provides online booking and / or a repeat prescription service and then click through to a Patient Access portal and securely logon to use the service.  Patients need to register to use the Patient Access Service through their GP Practice.

The Minister acknowledged and commended the work of all those involved in the development of the services. She continued: “These services are just part of a wider approach to making better use of technology which will impact positively on patients and service users.  This new way of doing things, which is underpinned by the ehealth and care strategy, is a key element of my vision for the future of our health and social care services. This is improvement and modernisation in action.”

Dr Margaret O’Brien, Head of General Medical Services with the Health and Social Care Board added: “The Board is delighted to have funded this initiative and is pleased that so many of our GP practices across the north have opted to offer this service to their patients, available on smart phones, laptops or PCs. 

“The service allows patients to book, change and cancel appointments or request repeat prescriptions at a time convenient to them day or night 24/7, helping them to Stay Well. These services are an extra option for accessing your GP surgery for those who wish to use them and will not replace traditional ways of contacting your GP surgery such as by phone or in person.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The use of modern technology to improve patient services is a key element of ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026 – Delivering Together’. 
  2. Since April 2016, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has provided funding and training for practice staff in the use of the specific systems to support  the provision of online appointment booking and repeat prescription ordering by GP practices. 
  3. NI Direct (Department of Finance) host the information in relation to the availability of services in particular practices.
  4. Service users have been involved in the design of the presentation of materials available via the NI Direct website.
  5. The official launch of these services on NI Direct is a key component of the HSCB’s Communications Engagement Strategy which aims to ensure that stakeholders are informed and engaged and that a broader awareness of health and social care services is developed.
  6. The Department of Health’s eHealth and Care Strategy was published in March 2016 and sets out a range of measures for the increased use of digital technology to support the delivery of health and care services over the period 2016 – 2020. The ability to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online is one of the key deliverables set out in the strategy.
  7. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 9052 0575 or email For out of hours please contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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