The NHS Information Centre is to collect data on which GP practices are offering patients access to their medical records online.
Chancellor George Osborne pledged in his last Autumn Statement that everybody in England will have online access to their GP records by 2015.
NHS IC head of primary care strategy Dave Roberts said it had been asked to collect information about electronic patient records access.
This includes which suppliers are offering the service, how many GPs have switched it on, and whether patients are accessing their records.
“There’s an interesting tension between that functionality being made available by suppliers and whether practices turn it on,” he said. “We need to see where the blocks might be, if there are any.”
Roberts said the NHS IC has been working on the easiest way of getting the information and has concluded that it will be best to get it from suppliers.
He also said being able to book appointments or see test results online did not constitute giving patients record access.
“We are not being asked at all to necessarily promote or make this happen, but we’ve been asked to report on it and it will be published,” he told EHI Primary Care.
“By shining a light on this, we will hopefully get patients demanding what they want; because it’s not for people like me or suppliers to say what patients want.”
Dr Amir Hannan, who has pioneered patient records access at his Hyde practice, said he was seeing “lots of very positive signals” with regards to expanding records access.
More than 1,800 patients now have access to their online record at Haughton Thornley Medical Centres and Hannan told last week’s Primary Health Info 2012 conference last week that he was getting an increasing number of calls from practices and IM&T leads asking “how do we do it?”
NHS North West is putting together material for practices on how to offer their patients records access.
Dr Hannan said he hoped to publish data “very soon” showing that giving patients records access resulted in them spending less time in the surgery.
“If we go at the pace we are going at the moment, then five years from now I would say 10% of GP practices will be offering records access. But that won’t lead to the productivity gains the NHS needs,” he said.
“Essentially, we have to do more with less and the one resource that we are not using as best we can is the patient. The more we can enable the patient to do, the less of a burden it is going to be on us.”
Dr Hannan added that funding would be needed to realise the government’s vision.
“Clinical commissioning groups will need to support and encourage practices to do it, and system suppliers will have to deliver systems capable of doing it,” he added.