£1 billion to be invested in new digital technology for the NHS
The NHS and the government have committed to investing £1 billion in new digital systems to improve data sharing between care professionals and patients.
The money will be invested into the creation of digital systems to streamline health services and cut down on paperwork. The government says it is committed to ensuring that patients will be able to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online, as well as giving patients online access to their health records. The system would also help to gather data to develop more effective treatment strategies.
The Department of Health has stated that the NHS should create systems that allow healthcare professionals to access patients medical details across the country. They hope that this will help provide patients with more effective and personal treatment. They also predict it will reduce errors such as incorrect prescription of drugs which can sometimes arise due to patient's paper notes being lost.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Rather than imposing a clunky one size fits all approach from Whitehall, this fund will empower local clinicians and health services to come together and find innovative solutions for their patients. Technology is key to helping our A&E staff meet the massive demand they face as the population increases and ages".
In an effort to reduce Accident and Emergency waiting times, the proposed paperless system would give A&E staff instant access to patients. This would mean that unnecessary diagnostic tests would not need to be carried out, and patients could be treated faster, with a reduced risk of being given the wrong medication. This would free up hospital beds as patients would be less likely to stay in hospital overnight.
Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information for NHS England said: "We are delighted with the additional £240m for the ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards’ fund to help patients get better and safer care.
"A single patient record will help make the patient journey from hospital to home seamless, giving professionals from different health and care organisations access to information when they need it most, without patients having to repeat themselves every time they speak to a different doctor, nurse or care professional".
The strategy of transferring to a paperless NHS has been recommended by healthcare experts for a long time. The consensus is that the channel shift towards digital systems will save the NHS millions of pounds, at a time when the service finds itself under mounting financial and political pressure. If the switch is successful, it should drastically improve NHS operations, ultimately resulting in a better experience for patients.
Chris Roche, Chief Technology Officer of EMC EMEA said, “We welcome today’s news that the Government is committing to funding and delivering a large scale clinical database. This is vital for reducing paperwork, improving patient management and the patient experience within the NHS.
"As with all things data and particularly health related, privacy and security are real concerns that should be debated in an open forum. But it is good to see the Government understand the role that data and bio-informatics plays in transforming healthcare and that they are funding the change."
Vicky Sargent, Director of BoilerhouseHealth and author of Better Served: Customer Access, Efficiency and Channel Shift commented: "Technology isn't the biggest challenge, change is". In an exclusive article for The Information Daily, she described channel shift as "a mountain to climb".
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