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Government mandates GP health records be online by 2015

The NHS Commissioning Board has welcomed the goals but also said that it will be ‘challenging’

All health records held by a patient's GP should be accessible online by March 2015, according the first mandate between the government and the newly formed NHS Commissioning Board.

It also said that by this time there should be clear plans in place to enable secure linking of these electronic health records wherever they are held, so that there is as complete a record as possible of someone's care.

This announcement comes shortly after CSC finally struck a £68 million deal with the government that brought an end to its catastrophic £2.9 billion contract to provide care records systems to the NHS. The Department of Health said it was saving £1 billion on the contract, which has seen CSC struggle to deploy the Lorenzo system in trusts across the UK.

The latest mandate was delivered to the NHS Commissioning Board (NCB), which was established in October as an executive non-departmental public body and will inherit full NHS planning and delivery responsibilities from the Department of Health, strategic health authorities and primary care trusts on 1 April.

The government mandates says: "In a digital age, it is crucial that the NHS not only operates at the limits of medical science, but also increasingly at the forefront of new technologies.

"The Board's objective is to achieve a significant increase in the use of technology to help people manage their health and care."

National standards should also be developed by the NCB by this time in order to allow for easy integration of health records, whatever their location.

By March 2015 patients should also be able to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online, and everyone will be able to have 'secure electronic communication' with their GP practice, with the option of e-consultations becoming much more widely available.

Also, the government expects that 'significant progress' will be made towards three million people with long-term conditions being able to benefit from tele-health and tele-care by 2017. The NHS should support these people to manage and monitor their condition at home, reducing the need for avoidable visits to their GP practice and hospital.

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) today welcomed the government mandate, but did say that it is going to be 'challenging'.

"Our aim and passion is to deliver a better NHS on behalf of patients and the public. We will do this by working side by side with local clinical leaders; by focussing relentlessly on the outcomes that the NHS delivers for people; and by freeing those on the frontline to transform services in line with the needs of local communities," said Nicholson.

"The mandate enables us to do this. It marks a major step on the road to the more liberated and innovative NHS that can be more responsive to its patients."

He added: "Make no mistake, the NHS will find this a challenging and stretching ask - and it comes against the most challenging financial environment the NHS has ever experienced. But I believe the goals are achievable."

It was recently revealed that the NHS is in discussions with the US government about how best to open up its public data for re-use.

Computerworld UK spoke to the US' deputy chief technology officer for government innovation, Chris Vein, who said that the UK government is effectively aiming to 'blow up' the NHS as it is currently structured and rebuild it, and plans are set to include opening up datasets.

Vein revealed that the person in the UK heading up the discussions with the US government is Tim Kelsey, who recently left the Cabinet Office to become the national director for patients and information at the NHS Commissioning Board.

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