NHS Direct could start booking GP appointments after starting talks with Surrey based consortium EsyDoc.

Getting thorough to GP surgeries to book appointments by phone is a common complaint of patients with a fifth of respondents to the recent GP patient survey reporting it was difficult.

NHS Direct and EsyDoc are still working out the details of how the system might work.

The proposal emerged after NHS Direct approached nine emerging consortia to discuss what sorts of services they would be interested in commissioning from NHS Direct.

These could include consortia websites linking to NHS Direct online health and symptom checkers which direct the patient to the most appropriate form of care; managing long term conditions; triage of same day appointments and appointment booking.

The telephone triage service is seeking to expand its services as its traditional role is under threat from the development of the NHS 111 urgent care number which will be commissioned locally under the any willing provider approach.

NHS Direct medical director Dr Brian Gaffney said: “Any service that we develop would be in response to what local commissioners want, and only if we could provide a good service for patients.”