Primary care trusts have been told to collect information on how many GP practices are enabling patients to access their records online.

Commissioners have also been told to expect more focus on record access in future, as the Department of Health plans for its “headline objective” of giving patients control of their records.

Latest guidance on the Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2011-12 sets out how the indicator will work and what it will be used for.

PCTs are instructed to get information from GP IT suppliers about: the number of GP practices in their area that have the functionality to allow GP record access; the number of practices that have made the functionality available to patients; and that is in use by patients.

Online record access is defined as access to view and request medication, access test results and letters, and access a summary or subset of the full medical record or access to the full medical record.

The DH says it expects there to be an increase in practices offering online record access during 2011-12 but says no level of expectation has been set.

It acknowledged that "at present some PCTs may have little if any capability within their area” but says the indicator will set the baseline for steps towards patients being able to exercise greater control of their records from 2012-13 onwards.

The guidance says the indicator is likely to be amended to more closely monitor patients with control of their records from 2012 and advises commissioners and GP practices to start planning for the amended indicator in 2011-12.

It adds: “Suppliers whose systems do not currently provide this functionality will receive a clear signal that the policy of providing patients with access to control of their care records, initially GP records but increasingly all care records, is a key policy for the government.”

The guidance says practices with many years of experience of offering online record access "are achieving rates of approximately 5-10% of their patients accessing their care records.”

Last week, EHI Primary Care reported that Haughton Thornley Medical Centres in Hyde, Cheshire, had recently signed up its 1,000th patient to access their records online.

The guidance adds that a plan and timetable to deliver greater patient control of records will be published in April 2011.

The Operating Framework technical guidance lists all the indicators that the NHS will have to collect information on in 2011-12.

They include use of Choose and Book and the percentage of appointments booked through Choose and Book to services where there is at least one named clinician listed.

The guidance says 90% is no longer a target for use of Choose and Book but that “this figure may serve as a useful guide for judging success.”