MEDICS in Bolton have become the first in the country to get online access to patients records.

The details of almost 50,000 people are now accessible to emergency staff working for the out-of-hours service at Landmark House.

Health bosses will assess how effective the system - known as summary care records - is and iron out any problems.

It will then be launched across the whole health service in the borough, including the accident and emergency department at the Royal Bolton Hospital and the walk-in centre at Lever Chambers Health Centre in the town centre.

Dr John Dean, the Primary Care Trust's medical director, said: "This exciting development will help us to deliver faster and safer care to our patients. Having accurate information on the patient's medication and allergies is key to ensuring the right treatment.

"Staff are looking forward to having this information available for increasing numbers of the patients they see as more records are made available."

The medical records from eight Bolton GP practices are now online and available to staff at Landmark House, but only if patients have given consent for them to be viewed.

The out-of-hours service deals with more than 5,500 calls each month from patients who need access to a GP when their own surgery is closed.

It is estimated about 900 calls every month will be from patients with a summary care record, which includes details of health conditions, what medication they are taking and what allergies they suffer from.

Only staff directly involved in the treatment of a patient can view their medical records and there are strict security measures in place to make sure unauthorised access is not allowed.

A record is also made of when, why and who has looked at each patient's records on the new system.

Dr Julie McMillen from the Kirby, Page and McMillen practice in Bradshaw Brow, which was one of the first surgeries to sign up to the scheme, said: "The records will most benefit the patients with the greatest needs, for example those who don't speak good English, the elderly or confused or those who aren't very good at articulating what medication they are taking."

Staff at Royal Bolton Hospital's casualty department and the PCT's walk-in centre are currently being trained to use the system and another three GPs are about to go live.

The eight surgeries currently on the system are: Dr Liversedge and Partners at the Egerton and Dunscar Health Centre, Bromley Cross; Dr Prasad and Hanif, Shanti Medical Centre, Daubhill; Mandalay Health Centre, Sharples; Stable Fold Surgery, Westhoughton; Dr McLardy and Partners at the The Halliwell Surgery, Lindfield Drive, Halliwell; Dr Hunt and Partners at the Little Lever Health Centre, Little Lever and the Kearsley Medical Centre.