A new contract agreement between NHS England and the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee aims to increase patient access to digital services.

The contract gives practices almost £1bn across five years to help fulfil ambitions laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

One of the features in the package is increased digital access for patients.

Part of this includes GP practices ensuring that they can offer online consultations by April 2020 and making at least 25 per cent of appointments available for online booking by July 2019.

Practices are also expected to provide all patients with online access to their full medical record also by April 2020.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has made his ambitions around technology in general practice clear, and GPs recognise the potential convenience that new systems can offer to many patients.

“We have therefore agreed a realistic timescale to improve digital access for patients, building on improved infrastructure to firstly be able to book an appointment and access to their own records online, before progressing to video consultations for all in 2021.

“We will also set in train an important programme to digitalise all remaining paper records, so freeing up much needed space in GP practices as well as delivering a comprehensive electronic patient record.

“And while patients will now have access to their own records digitally, we have secured £20m a year to cover the costs of subject access requests, which GPs and their teams have been having to complete unfunded since the introduction of GDPR legislation almost a year ago.”

Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, welcomed the announcement saying that the new contract will mean “we can finally turn a corner towards making general practice sustainable for the future”.