Patients will have real-time access to their full digital health record by 2018, under new plans unveiled by NHS England.

The National Information Board is today discussing a series of road maps designed to “make technology work harder and faster for patients and increase transparency across more services”.

Plans include the expansion of the Patient Online programme to give people electronic access to all data held on them by the NHS, by 2018. 

The roadmaps also include a commitment to ensure that all healthcare providers have access to fully interoperable, comprehensive patient records by 2020.

Under the latest GP contract, 97% of GPs are already giving patients access to a summary of their GP record online, as well as the chance to book appointments and order repeat prescriptions electronically. They must provide access to a “comprehensive record” by April 2016.

NHS England’s national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey said: “2018 is really about making sure people can access not only their GP record, but also records held elsewhere in the NHS and also the functionality for people to be able to write into their GP records.

“We’re not at this stage pre-determining the technological solution, what we are saying is that we are committing to providing patients with access digitally to data that’s held on them by the NHS in different care contexts."

The NIB's plans are out for consultation before final publication in September. Kelsey said part of that consultation will be around the technical architecture and standards needed to provide patients with full records access.

The roadmaps also repeat NHS England’s commitment that NHS Choices will become the “digital front door” for online patient services.

“Every citizen will soon be able to register for a GP; order prescriptions; access apps and digital tools; speak to their doctor online or via video link and view and take control of their full health record through a single online portal,” a statement from the board says.  

“For people with long term conditions such as diabetes or asthma; devices, skin sensors or clothes which monitor health will be able to upload directly into patients’ records through this platform.”

Kelsey said one third of ambulances, 111 call centres and out-of-hours services can already see patients’ summary care records online. Today’s announcement says that by 2018, these emergency services will have access to fully interoperable comprehensive patient records and all health services will have the same access by 2020.

“By 2018, in primary and out-of-hours and emergency care, we will achieve a position where care can be provided to a patient without the need for access to their paper records,” Kelsey explained.

Further plans include the expansion of MyNHS to include new information on local NHS commissioners and care homes.  

Also, as reported by Digital Health News in March, to look at the feasibility of turning the entire NHS estate into a free Wi-Fi zone. NHS England says this would open up the possibility for wearables to be used to monitor patients in hospital.  

SCRs will also be extended by March 2016 to include information on whether a patient has a learning disability or dementia. 

Kelsey added that the NIB plans to start work immediately on an economic model looking at the investment required to maximise the benefits of technology. “There will be a need for more investment in this space,” he said.

“I don’t know whether it’s a question of making better use of existing funding, both locally and nationally, or whether we are going to need additional funding.”

The roadmaps released today will be discussed in a series of roadshows running throughout the summer.