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DES to radically expand online GP services in two years

GPs will be expected to radically ramp up the online services they offer to patients – including email access to practices and full medical records -under the terms of a two-part new direct enhanced service released by the Government.

Under the draft terms of the DES, in 2013/14 practices will have to offer patients online booking of appointments, online ordering of prescriptions and making selected test results available online.

From 2014/15, GPs will also have to make further tests results available online, provide secure electronic communication within the practice and offer online access to medical records.

The DH’s draft document said: ‘The specific aim will be to reward practices that enable current IT functionality of systems that support online patient booking of appointments, online ordering of repeat prescriptions (including eventually electronic prescription service, and online access for patients to test results and medical re cords and who promote greater usage of these services by their patients.’

But Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, said: ‘Making all medical records accessible to patients on line would mean that patients who most need medical confidentiality would find it virtually impossible to protect their privacy.

‘They will be obliged to reveal their records under financial, physical or emotional  duress. Third parties ranging from abusive partners, school bullies to employers, financial organisations and other government departments such as the Department of Work and Pensions. They will inevitably resort to what is known as “enforced subject  access” because it will be so much more easy for them.’

The DES will be funded by the cash released from the abolition of the organisational domain of QOF.

The minimum requirements of the Improving Online Patient Access Scheme will be agreed between the NHS Commissioning Board and GPs.