Patient Facing Services (PFS)

Patient Facing Services (PFS)

Online patient facing services (PFS), sometimes referred to as ‘GP online services’ or ‘online services’ allow patients to increasingly use the internet for: viewing their electronic medical record; ordering repeat prescriptions; communicating with their GP practice, and booking GP appointments.

NHS Digital may be involved with the technical assurance of these online services.


It is expected that PFS will complement the existing methods of GP practices and others contacting patients. The four services are:

1. Patient access to electronic health records.

Providing the capability for patients to register for, and to access, internet-facing services that provide read-only access to their GP records, either a sub-set, or the full record.

2. Ordering of repeat prescription.

Enabling patients to request their repeat prescriptions online, and for that request to be approved, particularly if previously authorised by the GP practice to be re-ordered.

In the event that EPS nomination is in place, information may also later be transmitted electronically to the community pharmacy so that the patient can collect it from their chosen pharmacy or have the item delivered to their home.

3. GP appointment booking.

Providing the capability for patients to register for, and to access, internet-facing services that allow booking appointments and requesting repeat medications.

4. Communication with GP practice (e.g. email).

Providing the capability for patients to register for, and to access, alternative ways to contact and communicate with clinicians e.g. email or video messaging.

Access to PFS and promotion of PFS

NHS Digital statistics reveal that more than 97% of the population could be provided with access to PFS, and reveal that access to the services is on the increase. Over time, patients will be able to access PFS from a range of suppliers, including from a range of mobile app developers. Some app developers which have developed and offer certain digital online services could work with all or limited community pharmacy organisations. In the future apps which provide access to NHS Digital technically approved PFS may also be publicized on, within the NHS Health Apps Library, and within the NHS App. Some pharmacy contractors may opt to encourage patients to seek those benefits available for patients from the NHS App: ability to access the record, order repeat prescriptions and book GP appointments.

Patient Facing Services and fair patient choice of pharmacy

Some points are set out below which relate to patient choice and Patient Facing Services (PFS). These are also sometimes referred to as ‘GP online services’ or ‘online services’.

  • NHS Digital technically assures certain PFS. The services are: (1) Patient access to electronic health records; (2) Ordering of repeat prescription; or (3) GP appointment booking; (4) certain GP practice communication to patient.
  • Some of the providers that provide at least some of the PFSs will also work with a limited selection of pharma(cies). Some pharmacy contractors may also have their own or selected tool which allows PFS for their patients. Any pharmacy contractor may explore opportunities for them to help patients to benefit from the use of PFS e.g. promotion of NHS App or an equivalent app/tool which allows PFS without influencing choice of pharmacy.
  • Patients have the right to choose any pharmacy to provide services for them. Patient choice of pharmacy should not be unduly influenced. Patients which believe their choice has been restricted may follow the process set-out on NHS England’s Poster/guidance on freedom of choice including patient process for complaints (pdf).  The patient might request that their GP practice is not made aware of the complaint and if so, they can mention this within their complaint. They may also cc others into the complaint (e.g. the pharmacy) or may also mention within the complaint, whether the complaint can be shared with others such as the system provider, NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Digital, and PSNC.
  • See also: Patient apps and their featuresDirection of prescriptions, and ‘Patient pharmacy-related choice and technology’ section of

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