The NHS Alliance is promoting real-time access to medical records, claiming this will help meet the drive towards patient self-management as well as saving the NHS money.

The Alliance says there is evidence to show that record sharing improves relationships between clinicians and patients as well as improving efficiency and the safety and accuracy of the record.

The organisation, whose membership is made up of primary care trusts and GPs, argues that the best approach to record sharing would be a mix of the Spine and a distributed database approach.

It says full record access is already available to nearly 60% of practices in the UK using the EMIS computer system and software provided by PAERS (Patient Access to Electronic Record Systems).

The software enables the patient’s internet browser to access a service that shows the full medical record held in the GP practice with links to relevant advice and information.

Dr Brian Fisher, the NHS Alliance’s patient and public involvement lead and co-director of PAERS, said patient record access would help to put patients in the driving seat in the management of their health.

He added: “Patients are the real winners here and should be fully involved. Patients can use the information to prepare for consultations, for example.

“Also, having access to medical records helps patients understand the history of a particular health problem; improves awareness of their condition; and enables them to pass on information obtained when visiting hospitals.”

The Alliance called for patients to have electronic access to their full primary care record in its manifesto for a 21st Century health service published last year.