One in four GPs yet to provide patients with online access to records

All practices were expected to offer digital health records as of the start of this month, but minister says many are still working to address ‘configuration issues’

One in four general practice surgeries across England still do not offer patients online access to health records, despite the NHS’s deadline for doing so having passed a month ago.

The 2023/24 version of the national GP contract outlined that, by the end of October 2023, all practices were required to provide patients with digital access to all new information added to their health record – unless it is exempt under data-protection law. This includes the likes of test results and other communications from care providers, and notes made during consultations with clinicians – all of which should be provided online and via the NHS app. The requirement does not cover historic records.

As of the contract’s publication in March 2023, about 1,400 surgeries offered this functionality. This equates to about 22% of the overall tally of practices across England which, according to data from the British Medical Association, currently stands at 6,322.

Although this proportion has since risen about threefold, a quarter of GPs do still not provide digital access to new information added to patients’ health records, according to primary care minister Andrea Leadsom.

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This would equate to almost 1,600 surgeries across the country and, based on BMA calculations of average numbers of patients per practice, mean there are about 16 million patients without online health records.

Leadsom added that local and national bodies are working to address technical problems being faced by surgeries yet to connect to the NHS app and online platforms.

“Three out of four general practices across the country now give patients access to their new health record information on the National Health Service app or online,” the minister said. “For the remainder, digital leads and commissioners in integrated care boards (ICBs) will regularly meet with practices to address configuration issues and review plans to provide patient access. ICBs will offer performance management support where needed to increase confidence and complete preparations. Public communications campaigns are in place across the national digital channels – including publishing progress in trade media and across professional networks – to drive GP demand for access.”

Leadsom’s comments were made in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Karin Smyth.

Sam Trendall

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