Responding to the Francis report, which called on the NHS to make better use of technology to improve safe, effective care, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has today announced a new £260 million fund for hospitals.
Last year at least 11 people died in the NHS because they were given the wrong prescriptions. This fund will be used to increase the use of technology which will help stop drugs being prescribed incorrectly because patients’ notes have been lost.
Errors in prescriptions are present in as many as 8% of hospital prescriptions and studies have shown that the use of technology can cut these errors by half.
The fund will help protect patients by ensuring that doctors and nurses are able to access accurate details about the care of a patient. And it will make a patient’s journey through different parts of the NHS much safer, because their records can follow them electronically wherever they go.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
This fund will allow doctors and nurses to make the NHS safer by harnessing the very latest technology.
In many places, right now, a paramedic picking up a frail elderly woman who has had a fall will not always know she has dementia, because he or she cannot access her notes. Or a doctor is prescribing the wrong drugs, because they don’t know what drugs their patient is already on.
If we are to improve patient safety then we must allow the NHS to have access to the best tools available and this fund will help them achieve that.
The fund will be used by hospitals to replace outdated paper based systems for patient notes and prescriptions, and is a critical stepping-stone in helping the NHS go digital by 2018.
It will be primarily used for ‘electronic prescribing’ - which means computer generated prescriptions sent by doctors directly to pharmacies, linked to barcodes unique to each patient. This kind of technology plays a huge part in cutting errors and improving safety.
Tim Kelsey National Director for Patients and Information within NHS England said:
We are delighted to be working with the NHS, DH colleagues and frontline NHS staff to ensure that this fund enables the NHS to make substantial progress towards routine use of high quality data at the point of care.
This step change in integrating diverse information sources around the needs to the patient will support clinicians and provider organisations deliver world class patient care.
The fund will also be used for creating electronic systems, linked to patient records, that talk to each other right across hospitals. Like the system at St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust, who have all of their patient records accessible online for doctors and nurses at the click of a mouse. Another example is the system at New Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where an online ‘portal’ allows patients to view and update their own medical records so doctors can get instant, real-time updates.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England said:
This new fund will help patients get better and safer care by giving clinicians access to the right information when they need it most.
Supporting hospitals to replace outdated paper systems for notes and prescriptions will help relieve patients’ frustration at having to repeat their medical and medication history over and over again, often in the same hospital, because their records aren’t available.
Expanding the use of electronic prescribing of medications in hospitals will help improve safety, save lives and save taxpayer’s money.
NHS hospitals can bid for the money to fund projects but in order to be eligible, they must demonstrate that these will lead to better, safer care.