According to NHS England, more than four in five GP practices in England are enabling their patients to access their health records online through the NHS App.

The NHS delivery plan for recovering access to primary care set out an ambitious plan for nine in 10 GP practices to offer patients access to their health records via the NHS App by March 2024. By making it quick and easy for patients to access their healthcare, it hoped that it would free up 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter, as well as give people more choice over how they access care.

Currently, 81.1% of GP practices offer online access.

Vin Diwakar, national director for transformation at NHS England said: “In October alone, more than nine million people viewed their health records through the NHS App which means they can manage their own health better while GP practices are seeing a reduction in telephone calls for things like test results.

“Boosting patient records access will undoubtedly bring improvements for both patients and staff.

“More than 4,500 practices across the country have given patients access to their future records and we strongly encourage the remaining practices to implement the change with support available to help the practices that are having challenges delivering this service to patients.”

Access to all future records is now a legal right for patients, and general practices are required to give all patients aged over 16 access to their new health record entries, unless patients do now wish to have access or if exemptions apply.

Some patients also have access to their historic information, and all patients can request access to their historic health records.

The last two years has seen NHS England work closely with professional bodies, patient groups, charities and safeguarding leads to develop guidance on how and when to either restrict or redact information for individuals who might be vulnerable or be at risk of serious harm as a result of accessing their records.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association said: “Patients want straightforward access to their medical records. Increasing the numbers who can see their health information via the NHS App is good news for patients. We hear from patients how helpful knowing test results or upcoming appointments is to them in taking care of themselves. And as more patients are able to use digital access to the records, it will reduce calls to general practice requesting information patients can now access themselves.”

Easy access to online patient records is just one element of a package of measures designed to boost overall access for patients. In addition, the NHS is ensuring that all GP practices can upgrade their telephone systems to avoid the 8am rush for an appointment. So far eight in 10 practices have upgraded, up from five in 10 last year.