Will NHS users soon be able to see their doctors seven days a week, in and out of office hours via email, Skype or phone?

The answer is yes, according to the British Journal of Healthcare Computing, particularly if new proposals announced  by Prime Minister David Cameron come to fruition.

Forming part of the drive by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for more use of modern communications technologies in the NHS, such facilities could form part of the move to electronic prescriptions, online appointment bookings and online registrations, scheduled to start being introduced in the 2014-15 timeframe.

And from this week, GP practices can apply to a special new £50m Challenge Fund to start trialling such use of tech in the local doctor context - with nine pilots to be set up covering up to half a million patients to test the feasibility.

"Millions of people find it hard to get an appointment to see their GP at a time that fits in with their work and family life," commented Cameron in the official announcement of the programme. "We want greater flexibility, so people can speak to their family doctor on the phone, send them an email - or even speak to them on Skype," he added.

"This has the potential to be the most exciting development in primary care in the last decade," added Chair of the National Association of Primary Care Dr Charles Alessi.

"It is an opportunity for doctors to be the good family doctors they want to be while working with everyone in the system to deliver better care for everyone, especially those most in need."

The government also wants to support GPs to "modernise their services" so they can see patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, with extended hours work already being piloted in six Manchester GP practices. The £50m fund will be run as a competition and is open to applications from all practices.

Further details are set to be released in December with an aim of the first practice to launch the services from April next year.