Thursday, 11 February 2016

Government Aims to Make NHS Paperless with £4bn Investment

Image reproduced under licence from Flickr: Newtown grafitti
All political parties agree that moving from paper to electronic records, appointment, monitoring and prescription systems will be more convenient for patients and help provide faster diagnoses.  

Over the last few decades parties of all persuasions have tried to get the NHS to embrace technology and ‘go paperless’ but there has been limited success. 

Successive governments have been criticised for wasting money on projects which did not meet their scope, ran significantly over budget, or over time.  The Labour government’s electronic medical records programme in 2002 was described as “the world’s biggest civil information programme’ but was scrapped after costs exceeded £10bn. 

Now the current government plans to try again, with proposals announced which will see a further £4bn of investment into paperless projects.
The Department of Health and NHS England are still to finalise spending plans, but they are expected to include:
  • £1.8bn to create a paper-free NHS and remove outdated technology like fax machines.
  • £1bn on cyber security and data consent.
  • £750m to transform out-of-hospital care, medicines, social and emergency care.
  • About £400m to build, develop apps and provide free wi-fi.  Allowing patients to book services and order prescriptions online, as well as speak to their doctor via secure video links.

One of the most exciting areas of development is the use of ‘apps’ to help patients manage their care.  Apps are in development to help promote health as well as diagnose illness, examples in development include an app to help prevent self-harm in young people, and one that will help care home workers identify the early signs of dementia among residents.

By 2020 it is hoped that a quarter of a million patients with long-term health conditions will be able to monitor elements of their health care at home using new apps, uploading real-time data, sending it straight to health care professionals, managing diabetes, hypertension and other long-term conditions.

2020 seem like a long way away?  By March 2017 the government wants to see at least 10% of patients using PCs, tablets and their phones to access GP services.
Talking the BBC, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said doctors found filling out paperwork and bureaucracy "so frustrating".

"We know that proper investment in IT - it's not without its pitfalls - can save time for doctors and nurses and means they can spend more time with patients".

Labour's shadow health minister Justin Madders said: "Rather than rehashing old announcements, Jeremy Hunt needs to be telling the public how he intends to sort out the crisis facing our NHS.

"The Tories cannot hide from the fact that the NHS is going backwards on their watch.
"Hospital departments have become dangerously full, patients are waiting hours in A&E, and the health service is facing the worst financial crisis in a generation."

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