The delayed information strategy, entitled The Power of Information and published this week, includes a raft of measures affecting GPs.
By 2015, all practices ‘will be expected’ to allow online booking and cancellation of appointments, as well as online ordering of repeat prescriptions and communication with patients.
All NHS patients should be able to secure online access to their records by 2015.
In addition, providers and commissioners should communicate electronically, where possible, rather than using the post, in order to minimise treatment delays.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said GP practices had been pioneering online booking and repeat prescriptions for some time. 'We would support the wider implementation of this, as long as it doesn’t impact on patients without IT access who can continue to book appointments in the usual way,' he said.
'However, we would caution against the potential use of email for consultations, because compared to a telephone or face-to-face consultation it is difficult for GPs to assess someone quickly and safely this way.'
Dr Buckman said he would want assurances before patients were enabled to view their medical records online.
'We believe patients should have access to their health records,' he said. 'But we’d want to be satisfied that their records would remain secure before this was implemented.
'For example it would be important to be certain that it couldn’t be an abusive partner or a parent trying to access their teenager’s records.
He added: 'All patients need to be confident that their records are held safely otherwise they may not feel comfortable talking to their GP about confidential issues.
‘We would need to see the detail on the ‘clinical portals’ as while we support the sharing of relevant information between healthcare professionals there are challenges with shared electronic systems.’
The DH has asked the RCGP, working in partnership with patient groups and other professional organisations, to lead development of 'a plan, policy and procedures to support patient access and engagement with their GP records'.
The information strategy states: ‘NHS Commissioning Board will consider publishing guidance for support to assist patients to make the best of the information provided’.
The DH will sponsor the provision of a ‘comprehensive online portal’ to bring together the best of the relevant information on health, public health and care and support.
The strategy also states: ‘Central bodies will, over time, stop providing certain information where this is better done by the market’.
In social care, the DH and NHS Commissioning Board will work to pilot new ways to ‘incentivise’ the use of integrated barcode medication administration systems in care homes by September 2014.
In addition, every organisation will have to appoint a senior clinician or care professional responsible for ensuring that information is organized and used effectively in support of better patient care.