The Department of Health has predicted that a market of suppliers offering patients access to their Summary Care Record will emerge in the next couple of years.

Dr Charles Gutteridge, national clinical director for informatics, said that the DH believed alternative methods of accessing the SCR would be offered to patients who have so far only been able to view their record via the government portal HealthSpace.

He told EHI Primary Care: “In the future we expect to see a market develop for suppliers to provide platforms for viewing the SCR.”

Dr Gutteridge admitted that very small numbers of patients had so far taken up the offer to view their record via HealthSpace. Figures from February this year showed just 60 patients a month out of almost 5 million with an SCR at that time were viewing their record via HealthSpace.

Dr Gutteridge said he felt it was still early days for enabling patients to access their SCR and predicted that in the next year or two platforms would emerge include those funded by advertising, those paid for by patients and platforms funded by the NHS.

He added: “I think we are right at the beginning of the journey in terms of patients using digital ways of accessing healthcare and I think it will be driven by patient choice.”

Dr Gutteridge, a haematologist, said he currently had one patient using the HealthSpace Communicator function which offers a secure way for patients and clinicians to communicate via email and he said he saw the opportunities it could offer him in the management of patients with long term conditions.

Dr Gutteridge’s comments suggest the government may not be planning further large scale investment in HealthSpace, preferring to leave it to the private sector to come up with solutions for patients.

In 2009 Connecting for Health drew up plans to have four million HealthSpace users by 2014 but later in the same year a business case for expansion of the portal costing £98million was rejected by the DH as too high risk.

Patients who want to view their SCR online currently have to set up an advanced account with HealthSpace. In February just 10 PCTs were offering patients’ advanced accounts with a further six in the pipeline to do so.