The service is now being used by more than 385 000 patients, a rise of 40 % over 2012. The increase in Patient Access registration has been helped by the launch of a Patient Access app, which has had nearly 30 000 downloads since March 2013.
Many more practices are using the booking and repeat prescription functionality than the access to records functionality. Take up for the latter has been very low so far, despite repeated government pledges to provide access for all patients who want it by 2015, and new financial incentives for doing so.
Neil Laycock, the managing director of the company which produces Patient Access, said that there are some ‘hotspots’ where GPs are offering patients access to their records, but “it’s very much about whether people switch it on or not and thus far in the journey people are looking more for transactional services."
Dr Anant Sharma, a partner at Bilston Health Centre in Wolverhampton, said: “We make 100 % of our appointments available each day for online booking. It saves on trips to the surgery to request and pick up repeat prescriptions. Patients can also securely message the practice with non-urgent queries and requests, avoiding phone calls or a GP appointment. Age is no barrier. Our oldest Patient Access user is 91.”
In Sheffield, more than a third of appointments with the Sheffield University Health Service are booked through Patient Access. 50 % of patients who use the diabetic clinic book their appointments online.
Ben Hallsworth, Sheffield’s medical records summariser, said that Patient Access is a popular service. He explained: “As well as benefitting the patients in terms of convenience, it saves our reception staff considerable time - it takes pressure off them and the phone lines during the busy early morning period and allows them to spend more time helping patients who have more in-depth enquiries.”