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GP patient records to be accessible by 2015

DH launches plan for a “paperless” NHS

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 17 January 2013

All patients in England should be able to gain online access to their own health records held by their GP by 2015 under new government plans.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled his plans for the NHS to go paperless by 2018 in an effort to save billion of pounds and improve services.

In a speech to the think tank Policy Exchange given last night, Mr Hunt said patients should have compatible digital records so their health information can follow them around the health and social care system.

This would mean the health professional involved in the care of a patient should be able to see their history at the touch of a button and share crucial information.

On the way to the goal of a paperless NHS by 2018, the government wants everyone to have online access to their own health records held by their GP by March 2015.

In addition, there will be paperless referrals so that instead of sending a letter to the hospital when referring a patient to hospital, the GP will send an email instead.

There will also be 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.

The system should be able to allow for those records to be able to follow individuals, with their consent, to any part of the NHS or social care system.

By the deadline of April 2018, digital information should be fully available across NHS and social care services, apart from any individual opt outs.

The speech coincided with two newly published reports on the issue. The first report by Price Waterhouse Coopers was commissioned by the Department of Health and reviewed the potential benefits of better use of information and technology.

The report found that various measures including greater use of text messages for negative test results, electronic prescribing and electronic patient records could all improve care while also allowing health professionals to spend more time with patients and save billions of pounds.

The second report, the National Mobile Health Worker Project Final Report, produced by the mobile health worker project team for the Department detailed a pilot study on introducing laptops at 11 NHS sites.

It found that doing so led to significant increases in productivity and time spent with patients, reduced journey times, reduced data duplication, savings in referrals and admissions, and financial savings.

The NHS Commissioning Board will lead the implementation of the paperless drive and it is expected that hospitals should plan to make information digitally and securely available by 2014-15.

Mr Hunt said: “The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution. It is crazy that ambulance drivers 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.”

Professor John Williams, Royal College of Physicians’ director of the health informatics unit (HIU), said: “We fully agree with the health secretary's point that ‘technology can never replace the fantastic work done by doctors and nurses but it can help enormously.’”

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