Patient online: records and services

At this year’s RCGP Annual Conference, delegates will have the opportunity to find out more about online access to services and records. Alongside a presentation on online access during Concurrent Session F, ‘Access and Information – Informatics’ on Friday 2 October 15:50pm, there is also the chance to view the poster on display outlining the key aspects of online access for patients and what it means for both the practice and the patient. 

From April 2015 over 95% of practices are offering access to transactional services, which include the facility to book and cancel appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions and view a summary of the patient medical record.

To support practices to meet the GMS/PMS contractual requirements for 2014-15, the RCGP worked in partnership with NHS England, to produce a Patient Online Toolkit.

Since its launch in November 2015, the toolkit has had approximately 40,000 hits and about 1,000 visits to the eLearning modules.  Key themes addressed include identity verification, safeguarding the record, access to the record by children and young people and their parents, proxy access, coercion and the management of third party data; as well as information about patient responsibilities, and getting started with online services. 

From April 2016 practices will be required to also offer online access to all detailed information, that is, all information that is held in a coded form within the patient’s medical record. GP software will be configured to offer all coded data by default, but GPs will have the option and configuration tools to withhold coded information where they judge it to be in the patient’s interests or where there is reference to a third party. 


Offering online services brings immediate benefits to patients because they are able to interact with the practice in a different way. There is greater convenience in being able to book and order prescriptions at a time that suits the individual and there is potential to improve patient safety as patients can identify any errors on medication lists.

Patients with long term conditions are likely to benefit the most by being able to monitor their appointments and medications online and manage their own care more effectively. 

For practices there is the opportunity to offer a wider choice of patient services as well as supporting patients in the management of their own conditions. When patients use online services they reduce the pressure on practice telephone lines and reception desks. 

The 2015-16 contractual changes will offer more scope for changing the way that GPs work and encourage patients to take greater responsibility for their own care.  By making more of the medical record available to patients before the consultation, the discussion between doctor and patient can be more productive for both parties. 

A recent evaluation of the Patient Online toolkit shows that the information has been well received by practices.  Participants described the content of the toolkit as ‘helpful’, ‘useful’, ‘informative’ and ‘easy to use’.  See the toolkit yourself by visiting


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