‘Paperless NHS’ would save billions

Going paperless ‘would save NHS billions’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the NHS to be paperless by 2018 – a move a report says could help save the health service billions of pounds a year.

In a speech, Mr Hunt will say a primary step is to provide people online access to their health records by March 2015.

And by April 2018, any crucial health information must be available to staff on the touch of a button.

PwC suggests a possible £4.4bn may be put back into the NHS with better use of info and technology.

This information technology revolution was long within the offing.

It was Mr Hunt’s predecessor Andrew Lansley who first pledged in 2010 to begin a data revolution to make certain patients could use the online to report their experiences, rate NHS organisations and access their records so there could be “no decision about me, without me”.

A couple of years on and progress have been patchy, with some parts of the NHS offering a huge digital presence and others lagging.

Previous attempts to remodel NHS information technology have run into trouble. Labour’s scheme, Connecting for Health, allowed X-rays and scans to be stored and sent electronically. But other parts of the programme became mired in technical problems and contractual wrangling.

Priorities

In a speech to think tank Policy Exchange, Mr Hunt will say hospitals should plan to make information digitally and securely available by 2014-15.

This will signifies that different professionals all in favour of one person’s care can begin to share information safely on their treatment.

“We have to learn those lessons – and principally avoid the pitfalls of a hugely complex, centrally specified approach. Only with world-class information systems will the NHS deliver world-class care,” he’ll say.

Mr Hunts comments come as a report by PwC suggests a possible £4.4bn might be put back into the NHS due to better use of info and technology.

Using electronic prescribing and electronic patient records would also give staff more time to spend with patients.

The John Taylor Hospice near Birmingham found that using laptops greater than doubled the quantity of time clinicians could spend with patients.

Labour says the general public will struggle to appreciate why the govt. is making information technology a concern at a time when NHS spending was cut.

Labour’s shadow health minister, Jamie Reed, said: “As winter bites, the NHS is facing its toughest time of the year and the govt has left it unprepared.

“Patients are waiting too long in A&E and being treated in under-staffed hospitals – they won’t thank him for making this a concern. He should deal with the bread and butter issues first.”