The government’s pledge to give all patients access to their electronic health records by October 2015 is a “tall order” for busy GPs to fulfill, Dame Fiona Caldicott has said.

The information governance champion, currently running a national information governance consultation, spoke at the Health In4matics conference in Birmingham last week.

She said there was now evidence that patients having access to their own record has a positive effect on use of resources in the NHS and patient satisfaction.

Chancellor George Osborne pledged in his Autumn Statement that everybody in England will have online access to their GP records by 2015.

However, Dame Fiona said it was “quite a tall order” for “hard pressed GPs and their teams to manage this within the next two to three years."

“There’s a question that some of the challenges of that haven’t been fully recognised because it’s a rather short time frame,” she said.

Patients are most interested in the practicalities of being able to book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online and GPs should start by offering that service, she added.

“It’s important to do this in a stepped way, starting with the transactional aspects. If you begin with what (patients) are very keen to have then move into more complex area of availability of clinical information, that’s a safer way to proceed.”

Dame Fiona added that as GPs were taking on a dual role – of both delivering care and commissioning it – there needed to be more discussion about how this would affect their relationship to patient data.

“Safe care relies on people knowing as much as possible about a patient; if a patient starts to think their data is not secure they will not share it, that’s the biggest risk of all,” she concluded.