The NHS should go paperless by 2018 to save billions, improve services and help meet the challenges of an ageing population, announced Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week.
In a speech to the Policy Exchange, the Health Secretary said 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.
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.