NHS England has reported a big jump in the proportion of patients who are able to access their GP records online.

The present government came to power promising to give patients access to their medical records by 2015; a pledge that was subsequently changed to access to their GP records and then access to a subset of them by this date.

The latest “framework” for NHS IT, ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’, re-expands this promise, saying that “in 2015, all citizens will have online access to their GP records and will be able to view copies of that data through apps and digital platforms of their choice.”

PHaC2020 adds that individuals will be able to see more of their records – and add to them – by 2018. However, progress on the first part of the commitment has been slow.

EHI reported this summer that the most up to date figures available from NHS England at the time indicated that around 3% of patients in England could access their record.

But the latest figures to be published by the commissioning board, which run to the end of September 2014, indicate that 21% of patients are now registered with a practice that offers access to records online.  

At the same time, the number of patients registered with practices that enable them to book appointments and repeat prescriptions online has jumped to 91% and 88%; probably because these services were included within the new GP contract.

In a statement on its website, NHS England said its Patient Online team has been “working closely with practices across England to ensure they have the support they need to confidently offer these online services.”

The team has recently published a support and resources guide that includes advice and tools developed by the Royal College of GPs about patient access, and materials for patients.

“The focus will now turn to those practices that aren’t offering line services, finding out what the barriers are and what we can do to overcome them,” the statement adds.

More detailed figures indicate that almost all GP practices now have the IT systems that would enable them to offer patient access to records and transactional services.

Some 99% of general practices have the capacity to allow patients to book or cancel appointments online, and 91% of patients are registered with practices that actually offer this service.

Just one per cent fewer practices – 98% – have the capacity to allow patients to view or order repeat prescriptions online, and 84% of patients are registered with practices that offer this service.

Significantly fewer practices have the capacity to allow patients to view their records online – 84%. Some 21% of patients are registered with practices that offer the ability to review their medical records online.

The latest figures do not indicate how many patients are actually using these services.