Fewer than 3% of patients have access to their GP medical records online, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s indicator portal.

Patient access to medical records has been promoted by successive governments. The present administration promised that patients would have access to their full medical records online by April 2015.

However, the target has been scaled back, first to access to GP records, and then to access to a subset of the GP record; the information in the Summary Care Record.

In April this year, it was scaled back even further, with GP practices being told they either need to provide people with access  by April 2015 or “have published plans to do so” by next month.

With just over six months to go, the indicator portal suggests progress would have to be extremely rapid to hit the access target.

The figures, last updated in quarter 4 of the 2013-14 financial year, suggest that 2.9% of practices have the functionality to let patients view their records, and have switched this on.

Nearly 80% of practices have the functionality, but have not switched it on, and nearly 17% of practices do not have the ability to give patients access to their records online.

Even those practices that have enabled access have seen low levels of take-up. The HSCIC figures indicate that only 20,000 patients have accessed their records; on average less than one time per patient.

The numbers have, however, improved. EHI reported in 2012 that less than 1% of practices had switched on the functionality.

The figures are better for ‘transactional’ services. The indicator portal suggests that 80% of practices have enabled online appointment booking, with only 33 practices having no functionality in place to do so.

However, just 7.2% of patients have been “enabled” to electronically book and cancel their GP appointments. These 4m patients have used this functionality 1m times.

The government’s ‘Transforming Primary Care’ report, published jointly with NHS England in April this year, says patients will “increasingly” be able to book appointments online, but set no targets for this.

The government is also keen for patients to have the ability to order and view repeat prescriptions online.

At the end of the 2013-14 financial year, nearly all GP practices had this functionality as part of their GP IT systems, but only 73% of GP practices had enabled it, and less than 6% of patients had been given the chance to use it. 

EHI reported last week that a survey published in the London Journal of Primary Care found that giving patients access to records could reduce demand for traditional appointments and phone calls to practices.

The study which surveyed two practices that are already giving patients access to records, found that a significant number of patients said that by accessing their test results or pick up letters online, they avoided having to call the surgery or make an appointment.

However, the HSCIC figures again show that very few practices have this functionality available to patients. Only 2% of practices let patients view letters online and less than 3% let patients view test results.

The figures from the HSCIC also show that 37.5m people, or two thirds of the population, have a Summary Care Record.