The Government’s proposed GP contract changes will include new payments for GPs who offer patients online access to their health records.

One of the extra services to be commissioned from GP practices is called ‘improving online access to services’ and involves enabling patients to book appointments, order prescriptions and see test results online as well as access their medical records.

A letter to the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee says a new Directed Enhanced Service will also cover support for people with long-term conditions to monitor their health remotely.

“It will be the responsibility of the NHS Commissioning Board to develop the detailed specification for this new enhanced service and the board will want to work with GPC and other interested stakeholder groups such as the RCGP in doing so,” it says.

The online access service is to be introduced in a phased approach. In the next financial year, practices will have to offer patients online booking of appointments, ordering of prescriptions and viewing of test results.

From 2014/15, GPs will have to provide secure electronic communication with the practice and offer patients online access to their medical records.

Providing these services is expected to reduce administrative workload for GP practices as well as administration costs for the wider NHS.

A consultation on changes to the GP contract was launched after a negotiated settlement could not be agreed with the BMA and NHS Employers.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government had, “listened to, responded to and fully considered alternative proposals” put forward by the GPC.

“In the absence of an agreed settlement, it is reasonable to consult on the proposed changes needed to make sure improvements in patient care will follow.”

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the BMA is “open to real dialogue with the government” about the impact of the changes and any unintended consequences.

“We would be extremely disappointed if this consultative process was a rubber stamping exercise for their existing plans,” he added.

The potential consequences of giving patients online access to their records was discussed at the GPC’s November meeting.

Dr Buckman said that abusive spouses, overbearing parents, insurance companies and employers could put pressure on patients to reveal their confidential GP records.

GP leaders had warned the government in January that they had serious concerns about the goal of providing all patients with online records access by 2015.

He added that evidence from past attempts to create online records, such as HealthSpace, showed that patients were not very interested.

The GPC and other primary care organisations have 12 weeks to respond to the new proposals.