But many practices face a huge challenge to meet a 31 March deadline for offering access to at least summary record data.
According to NHS England national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey, preliminary data show that in December 2014, around one in three patients were registered at a practice offering online record access.
The previous December, just 3% of practices offered this service.
GP anxieties remain
Documents published ahead of today’s NHS England board meeting admit: ‘Access to records is yet to become the norm and a number of anxieties expressed by the GP profession remain.’
But the board papers add: ‘We are doing everything possible to ensure that 95% of practices will be offering these services by end of March 2015.’
The 2014/15 GP contract deal included an agreement for practices to offer and promote to patients online appointment booking and online ordering of repeat prescriptions.
NHS England says 91% of patients are registered with general practices that offer the ability to book or cancel appointments online, up from 64% a year ago, and 88% of patients are registered with a practice that offers the ability to view or order repeat prescriptions online, up from from 64% a year earlier.
Mr Kelsey told the board meeting that improvements in online access to records had ‘a genuinely transformational power for people managing their own health’.
He added that a ‘forgotten legacy’ of investment in IT over the past decade was that the UK had among the best-developed primary care IT in the world.
‘We feel really encouraged by the level of engagement with this,’ he said.