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Next month there will be a change in how patients can view their medical records online.

Below we will set out exactly what these changes are, how they benefit both patients and practice staff, and when they will happen.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that these changes are not in any way related to the previously proposed – now paused – changes to the collection of patient data for research and planning purposes. The only person who will have increased access to your medical records due to these changes is you.

What we mean by ‘online access’

Previously, when you signed up for online access with your GP, you would be set up with a login and password to one of a few different online systems. The one we use is called SystmOnline. From this platform, the default permissions meant you could book and manage appointments, see your current medication and reorder prescriptions.

If you wanted to view your medical records, including childhood immunisations and test results, you could request this access, and the practice staff would grant the permission.

The NHS App also gives you this feature, along with other useful functions like reordering prescriptions.

Since 2019, access to these additional medical records has been the default when setting up new online access accounts for people.

Higher digital expectations

Most of us have probably been using digital means to go about our lives during the pandemic. In particular, two NHS smartphone apps will likely have come to our attention. The NHS Covid-19 app helped record and trace close contact to positive cases, and the NHS App allows us to display our vaccine status.

This has led to more people downloading the NHS App and discovering what it could and couldn’t do. Lack of easily available medical records was the most complained about issue. Users expectation was that after verifying their identity and logging in, there wouldn’t be any further tasks to complete or barriers to overcome to see their own information.

Upcoming changes

From December 2021, SystmOnline and the NHS App will switch on full access for all accounts. This means anyone who had access set up before the 2019 change in defaults that added medical records will now have that information available.

When the change is made, all new updates to a person’s medical records, including letters, test results, consultation notes, will be visible to patients.

Historical information will not automatically be added but can be requested through the NHS app.

Benefits to Patients and Practices

Digital tools give people more control over how they manage their health.

Patients will have easy and automatic access to more of their information than before. For example, this means you can look for a recent test result from your computer or phone at any time of day. You no longer need to wait for the practice to be open and make a phone call.

Requesting access to your historical records will also be handled through SystmOnline or the NHS App, so those tasks will no longer come to practice staff.

When these sorts of tasks are removed from staff workloads or at least reduced, it makes our team more available to help patients in other ways. The benefits to us then, in turn, become further benefits to patients.

Further updates

When an exact date for these changes is known, we will share it with you in a further update. We will also share some useful guides on how to access your information either through SystmOnline or the NHS App, as well as highlighting some of the features and benefits of both.

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