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Patients given access to full GP record by 2015

All patients are to be given access to their full GP record by 2015, under Government plans announced today.

The plans, which will form a key plank of the Government's so-called Information Revolution, were unveiled in Chancellor George Osborne's Growth Review this afternoon.

The review explains: ‘The Government will ensure all NHS patients can access their personal GP records online by the end of this Parliament.'

GP practices are able to offer patients access to their full patient record if they use the EMIS system, but this is the first time records have been freely available to allpatients in England.

Plans to give all patients access to their GP record were initially mooted in the Department of Health's consultationon the Information Revolution, and have been disclosed ahead of the publication of the Government's nationwide information strategy.

It comes after last week's NHS Operating Framework revealed all patients who have already been written to about the Summary Care Record will have a record created ‘by March 2013 at the latest' and that the Government was considering making this an ‘entitlement' from 2013/14.

The BMA said in their consultation response earlier this year that it agreed that ‘patients should have easier access to their health', and that ‘this should start with GP practice records'.

But it warned the plans could present ‘significant challenges' such as ‘ensuring that the quality of clinical records is not affected, third party information is not inappropriately accessed, patients are not coerced into releasing information and are supported if accessing information that may cause distress.'

It added that the plans also risked widening health inequalities, saying: ‘It is important that the increasing use of online services does not disenfranchise those people who do not have internet access.'

News of the rollout comes despite research last year finding that just one in 750 patients invited to take part had signed up to Government's online records programme Healthspace. To date, nearly 34 million patient information packs have been sent out as part of the project's public information programme, with £9.9 million Summary Care Records created.

Dr Paul Cundy, a GP in Wimbledon, south London, and co-chair of the GPC's IT subcommittee, said most evidence shows patients had no appetite for being given access to their records.

He said: ‘I'm fascinated [with the announcement] because the Government's own national experiment of this, Healthspace, has proven this is the last thing patients actually want. The desire for this is infinitesimally minute.'

‘What patients actually want is electronic prescription services, electronic appointments and access to their GP by email, all of which GPs are putting in place.'