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NHS challenged to go paperless by 2018

The NHS should go paperless by 2018 to save billions, improve services and help meet the challenges of an ageing population, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will say today.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange this evening, the Health Secretary will say that patients should have compatible digital records so their health information can follow them around the health and social care system.

This means that in the vast majority of cases, whether a patient needs a GP, hospital or a care home, the professionals involved in their care can see their history at the touch of a button and share crucial information.

His speech comes as 2 reports are also published which demonstrate the potential benefits of making better use of technology.

A Price Waterhouse Coopers study reviewing the potential benefits of better use of information and technology found that measures such as more use of text messages for negative test results, electronic prescribing and electronic patient records could improve care, allow health professionals to spend more time with patients and save billions.

A National Mobile Health Worker report, also published today, was a pilot study on introducing laptops at 11 NHS sites.

On the way towards the 2018 goal, the Health Secretary wants to see:

  • By March 2015 - everyone who wishes will be able to get online access to their own health records held by their GP.
  • Adoption of paperless referrals - instead of sending a letter to the hospital when referring a patient to hospital, the GP can send an email instead.
  • Clear plans in place to enable secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held, so there is as complete a record as possible of the care someone receives.
  • Clear plans in place for those records to be able to follow individuals, with their consent, to any part of the NHS or social care system.
  • By April 2018 - digital information to be fully available across NHS and social care services, barring any individual opt outs.

The NHS Commissioning Board is leading implementation and it has set a clear expectation that hospitals should plan to make information digitally and securely available by 2014/15.

This means that different professionals involved in one person’s care can start to safely share information on their treatment. This is set out in the NHS Commissioning Board’s recent publication ‘Everyone Counts: planning for patients in 2013/14′.

Jeremy Hunt said:

_“The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution. _

“It is crazy that paramedics cannot access a full medical history of someone they are picking up in an emergency - and that GPs and hospitals still struggle to share digital records.__ 

_“Previous attempts to crack this became a top down project akin to building an aircraft carrier. We need to learn those lessons - and in particular avoid the pitfalls of a hugely complex, centrally specified approach. _

“Only with world class information systems will the NHS deliver world class care.”

The Government recently announced it would be making £100 million available to NHS nurses and midwives to spend on new technology.

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