The Welsh Assembly Government has announced it will invest £1.7m in a bilingual website that will enable patients to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online.

Informing Healthcare, the Welsh NHS IT agency, says it is developing a “bespoke NHS Wales website” with GP system suppliers, which will allow patients to interact with GPs over the internet.

In order to access the My Health Online website, patients will have to register with their GP surgery. They will be given an individual PIN that will allow them to sign in through the government gateway secure log-on.

The website has been piloted in four GP surgeries across Wales, and the funding announcement follows an extensive business case that was put forward to the Welsh Assembly Government last year.

In a statement to E-Health Insider, Informing Healthcare said: “We are delighted that the outline business case has been approved and we are now in a position to move forward.

“The My Health Online service will make it possible for patients to use the internet to book appointments with their GP and request repeat prescriptions.

“We know from our research that patients in Wales want to use the internet in this way to make it easier to carry out basic health tasks, such as contacting the GP practice and ordering medicines.”

In 2007, Informing Healthcare carried out research which found that around 78% of people wanted to be able to order repeat prescriptions, book an appointment with their GP or update their details online.

Health Minister Edwina Hart, who announced the investment said: “The demand for online GP services is increasing and we recognise that providing accessible information is critical if we want to enable people to change their lifestyles and improve their health.

“The Welsh Assembly Government is also committed to improving access to health services for people living in rural communities. My Health Online will particularly save lengthy journeys to GP practices.”

Informing Healthcare said the immediate next steps will be to continue to work to design and implement this new service.

The announcement came as the Conservative Party published its draft manifesto, indicating that a Tory governemnt would make records available online for everyone in England.

At the launch of the manifesto, David Cameron said: “It’s the patient who’ll have the power in our NHS. You’ll be able to check your health records online in the same way you do your bank account.”

My Health Online will eventually allow patients to see their medical records online. But Dr Gwyn Thomas, chief executive of Informing Healthcare and chief information officer for the Welsh Assembly Government, has indicated that this is not a priority.

In an interview last year with EHI, he said: “What we found from the 2,000 people that we asked was that the priorities they had were ordering repeat prescriptions and booking appointments with their GP online – rather than having direct access to their medical records.”

Links: Informing Healthcare

Welsh Assembly Government