Patients will have online access to their electronic health records within the next year, according to yesterday'’sreview of the NHS by Lord Darzi.

In a wide ranging review on the 60th birthday of the NHS, Darzi called for greater ‘health literacy’, more patient choice and closer monitoring of health provision quality.

“Too few people have access to information about their care or their own care record. We will change this,” he wrote in the 'High quality care for all' report.

Summary care records will show details on patients’ addresses, treatments and allergies, and will be added to by doctors as patients start new treatments. As part of the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT, the world’s largest civilian IT project, care records have been a major point of debate.

Speaking to CIO sister title Computerworld UK after contractor Fujitsu left the programme in May, several analysts urged the NHS to reconsider the argument for a central records database.

That month, a high profile report by researchers at University College London said the records system was "clunky" and interfaced poorly with other systems. It also questioned the ethics of automatic opt-in for patients, when in one trial many did not understand the record despite information they had been sent.

Darzi promised that patients will be able to see their records, adding that they had “a right to see the information held about them, including diagnostic tests.”

“We will ensure that patients’ right to access their own health records is clear by making this part of the NHS Constitution,” he said.

“We will introduce HealthSpace online from next year, enabling increasing numbers of patients to securely see and suggest corrections to a summary of their care records, to receive personalised information about staying healthy, and to upload the results of health checks for their clinician(s) to see.”

The NHS Choices website, which provides patients with information on Healthcare Commission ratings and MRSA rates, would soon provide information on the quality of services on offer, he said. More information will be in the Health Information Review, due to be published “shortly”.

The website will also provide a “simpler” way for patients to register online with a GP surgery, he said.

A new site, called NHS Evidence, will provide staff with “clinical and non-clinical evidence and best practice”.

“In future, the NHS will not be confined to hospitals, health centres or GP surgeries but will be available online and in people’s homes, whilst the most specialist care will be concentrated to allow excellence to flourish,” Darzi said.

In a preface to the report, prime minister Gordon Brown wrote that the changes proposed in the report would lead to a “more personalised NHS” and better care.

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