Patient involvement and clinical support are key to increasing online access to GP records.

NHS North of England has published a report about how to increase the number of GPs offering patients online access to their records and transactional services.

The NHS reorganisation means it no longer exists, so the report was created to ensure lessons learned by staff were, “not lost in the transition to the new organisations”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged that all patients who want it will have online access to their GP record by March 2015.

As of April this year, 37% of practices in England were offering appointment booking online and 40% were offering repeat prescription ordering online. However, only 0.75% were offering online access to records.

In the north west of England, a Patient Access to GP Online Services Advisory Group was established to develop understanding of the access to records programme.

The group included GPs and other clinicians as well as patient representatives who were already using transactional services.

The advisory group recruited of a number of ‘patient access facilitators’ whose responsibility was to give practical support to GP practices in building functionality.

Three facilitators  in Lancashire, Cheshire and Merseyside supported local implementation, with funding from the NW Informatics Team.

“Whilst interest in understanding of access to medical records for patients is growing amongst GPs, progress to date has been mainly for ‘transactional services’ such as ordering repeat prescriptions or practice appointments,” the report says.

In Lancashire, between July 2012 and April this year, the number of practices offering an online repeat prescription service rose from 60 to 75 and the number offering online appointment booking rose from 51 to 60.

The number offering patients online access to their records increased from two to 18.

“Facilitators are currently developing transition plans to continue this work in CCGs,” the report says.

The report outlines  key elements which need to be in place to make patient access to records work effectively. These include; patient involvement; clinical and executive support; funding; and toolkits.

The group advises people thinking about implementing online records access to, “stop doing anything that does not necessarily need to be done and create sufficient space in the diary for you to be able to focus on implementation properly”.

It recommends that practices raise awareness amongst patients, engage with clinicians and develop early implementers

Also, that they use patients who have access to their records in the conversation with other patients and clinicians.