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Switching the Prescription Phone Line to the NHS App during COVID-19

Objective: Reduction in telephone calls

When COVID-19 prevented patients from requesting repeat prescriptions in person at the GP practice, patients resorted to ordering by telephone. For some GP practices, this caused immense pressure on their already busy phone lines, with Derby Road Health Centre reporting that: “the volume received could not be sustained”.

Removing Prescription Phone Line

A new normal for patients a Derby Road Health Centre

Encouraging patients to order their repeat prescriptions digitally, GP practices will experience a reduction in telephone calls, which will enable the practice to have additional capacity to answer other incoming calls quicker and to fulfil other duties.


To reduce the additional calls (around 200) that were made to the health centre per week for repeat prescriptions, Derby Road disabled the repeat prescription phone line to encourage patients to use digital alternatives. The staff at Derby Road reported that: “generally this decision was well received by the majority of patients”.

To prepare for this, the team spent a month promoting and encouraging patients to register for the NHS App and other digital services such as SystmOnline. This saw them receive over 325 new patient registrations between January-March 2021.

Since then, the pressure on practice staff has reduced with less incoming calls. The team said: “The volume received could be quite overwhelming for staff with time being freed up to carry out all other necessary responsibilities within the practice”.

The practice was asked how patients could order repeat prescriptions if they not have access to the NHS App. They said: “Staff will still take prescription requests over the telephone if the patient was elderly, vulnerable or did not have online access”. 

When asked if they had received any comments about the implementation of the NHS App for ordering prescriptions, they said: They stated, “People are less likely to give positive feedback than complain but we’ve not received any significant number of negative comments either.”

In comparison to January 2021 when Derby Road Health Centre was receiving prescription requests via telephone and the NHS App (78 in total), the practice saw 148 prescription requests per month through the NHS App. On average, a repeat prescription phone call takes 2 minutes per request to complete.


By removing the option for patients to order prescriptions via telephone, Derby Road Health Centre has seen the following benefits:

Type of benefit
Non cash releasing
Reduction of phone calls
Derby Road Health Centre have seen a significant reduction in the number of calls being made to the GP practice which has reduced pressure on staff and enabled the practice to complete other tasks.
Non cash releasing
Patient time saving
Patients will save at least the two minute phone call to the GP practice as well as any additional waiting time on the telephone

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