Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said 95 per cent of NHS patients will be able to access their GP care records online, free of charge, by the time of the next general election.
Mr Hunt said by April 2015 patients would be able to access their own GP records online, as well as book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions, as part of a wider move to “e-booking” and “e-consultations”.
He was speaking at NHS England’s Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester yesterday.
Mr Hunt made a commitment that by the end of 2014, one third of accident and emergency departments, ambulance services and 111 call handlers would be able to access patients’ GP records.
He said these goals were “hard-wired” into the NHS.
In a speech on how technology would improve NHS care, Mr Hunt defended the work of NHS England national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey, who has been overseeing the controversial Care.data data sharing initiative.
Mr Hunt said Mr Kelsey had assured him that work on giving patients’ access to their records was going to plan.
He said: “By the end of this year, Tim [Kelsey] has promised me that one third of ambulance services will be able to access people’s GP electronic health records.
“One third of 111 centres will be able to access people’s health records so that if someone gives their consent when they are talking to a doctor or a nurse on the phone, that person will be able to access their health record.”
The same proportion of A&E would be able to access the records, he said.
Mr Hunt said this move would make a “massive difference to people working incredibly hard under a great deal of pressure”.
Speaking in praise of Mr Kelsey, Mr Hunt said: “Tim did something very brave, that no one in his position has ever done before…
“Tim was the first person to say, ‘If we’re going to go using this [hospital and GP] data, and we’ve got to use it more than we have used it before then we need to give people the right to opt their data out.’ That is a very significant thing to say.”
Last month NHS England announced the implementation of Care.data would be delayed for six months to deal with concerns about the scheme from GPs, patients and privacy campaigners.
Mr Hunt also repeated his proposal to make legal changes in relation to the programme.
He said: “I will be supporting legislative changes that will give legal protection to any opt-outs and legal safeguards about how the data is used.”