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Paperless NHS by 2018 will save £4bn, says Hunt

Previous NHS IT overhauls have resulted in massive losses for the government

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is calling for a paperless NHS by 2018 in a bid to save the government £4.4 billion a year, despite past failures in attempting to overhaul IT in the health service.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange, Hunt is set to say that patients should have compatible digital records so their health information can follow them around the health and social care system. This would allow healthcare workers to easily access a patient's records, and share information, via electronic systems.

By March 2015 everyone in the UK should be able to get online access to their health records held by their GP, according to Hunt, and GPs should be able to refer patients via email, instead of having to send a letter.

Hunt also wants there to be a clear plan in place to enable secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held.

The NHS Commissioning Board will be leading the implementation and it has set a clear expectation that hospitals should plan to make information digitally and securely available by 2014/15.

"The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution," the Health Secretary will say.

"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."

He added: "Previous attempts to crack this became a top down project akin to building an aircraft carrier. We need to learn those lessons - and in particular avoid the pitfalls of a hugely complex, centrally specified approach. Only with world class information systems will the NHS deliver world class care."

Hunt is likely to be referring to the colossal failure of the previous government's National Programme for IT (NPfIT). It was revealed last year that CSC had 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.

Today's announcement comes with the release of a PwC study that found by better use of information and technology the NHS could save up to £4.4 billion a year, which could be invested back into patient care.


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