GPs not there on records access – survey

  • 21 February 2013
GPs not there on records access – survey

The overwhelming majority of GP practices are not ready to implement the government’s flagship NHS IT pledge to give patients online access to their records by 2015.

An exclusive survey for eHealth Insider, conducted by, found that 43% of just over 1,000 GP respondents said “we haven’t started to address this yet” when asked how ready they were to facilitate patient access to records.

A further third (29%) said their IT systems still needed work or that the relevant functionality had not been switched on, and a quarter (24%) said they simply did now know how ready their practice was. Just 4% said “our IT system is ready, and is already live.”

EHI Primary Care editor Rebecca Todd said: “It is a concern that so many GPs have yet to start thinking about how to implement patient access to records, when the government’s deadline is just two years away.

“All of the major GP system suppliers say that their systems support patient access, or will do so very shortly. Yet it is clear that many practices have yet to start using the functionality, or to think about the processes they will need to put in place to make good use of it.”

Although the idea of patient access to records has been floated repeatedly, the pledge to give patients online access to their GP-held records was formalised in the NHS IT strategy, ‘The Power of Information’, which was issued in May last year.

It was also enshrined in the historic ‘mandate’ given to the NHS Commissioning Board in December, which says all patients who want access should have it by 2015.

The subsequent ‘planning guidance’ for the NHS in England goes on to promise that a consultation on access to other health and social care records will be held this summer.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has set up a working group to look at the issues around patient access, which is expected to publish an initial report after a meeting on Friday.

The Patient Online programme has been working with a wide range of organisations to look at everything from the principles behind access to information governance and GP workload issues.

Some pioneering GPs, such as Dr Amir Hannan, who works at Houghton Thornley Medical Centres in Hyde, have found that opening up access to records can deliver benefits for patients and get them more involved in their care.

The survey suggests that most GPs are not opposed to the idea of giving patients access to records; although they are not keen on the government’s deadline.

When asked whether they thought it will be useful for patients to have access to their records, half of respondents (49%) agreed that it would to some extent, with a quarter (21%) undecided, and a third (29%) disagreeing to some extent.

When asked whether they supported the government’s decision to give patients access to their records, a majority of respondents still agreed or were undecided.

However, when asked if they were in favour of the 2015 deadline, support dropped to a third (27%), while the number of respondents undecided rose to a quarter (25%) and disagreement rose to nearly half (48%).

Dr Tim Ringrose, chief executive of, said: “Giving patients more control over their healthcare by enabling them to access their GP records online could bring significant benefits to the individual and NHS alike. However, it represents a huge cultural shift for doctors.

“Our survey suggests that many doctors have yet to be convinced of the merits of this system and this may explain why few practices are ready to embrace it.

"As the UK’s largest and most active network of doctors, we will be advising and supporting GPs as they work towards this key government objective.”

The survey also uncovered luke-warm support for another government idea; to enable patients to hold email consultations with their GP. Read a full analysis of the survey in Insight.


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