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Ministers announce £1bn to widen staff access to patient records

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Around £1bn will be spent on improving NHS technology, which the government says will mean clinical staff can share access to patients’ electronic records.

Hospitals, GP practices, community nurses and out-of-hours doctors will be able to access details with the aim of improving care and relieving pressure on accident and emergency departments.

The cash will also be spent on systems to ensure all patients can book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online by March 2015, as well as giving patients access to their online GP record.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the failure of the national programme for IT should not deter the NHS from taking steps to keep up with technological advances.

Around £500m will come from the Department of Health for the three-year venture, with the other £500m from local health systems matching the funding they receive.

The government believes going paperless by 2018 will cut the amount of time staff spend on admin and will reduce drug prescribing errors when paper notes are lost.

Mr Hunt said: “The public are rightly sceptical about NHS IT after the failures of the past.

“But we can’t let past failures hold patients back from seeing the benefits of the technology revolution that is transforming services all around us. It is simply maddening to hear stories of elderly dementia patients turning up at A&E with no one able to access their medical history.

“This is the opposite to the previous approach where a one-size fits all solution was clunkily imposed from Whitehall,” Mr Hunt said. “Instead, 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. This is something on which the government must and will succeed.”

Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England, said: “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.

Former nurse Dame Julie Moore, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, said: “It’s encouraging that the government are placing such a priority on improving technology in the NHS, and backing hospitals to become more hi-tech. 

“Technology has been key to helping us improve safety and drive up standards for patients in Birmingham.  We can’t let past NHS IT failures hold us back from embracing technology’s power to transform patient care.”

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Patients find it massively frustrating when they have to give their personal details or medical history multiple times over, sometimes three or four times in one hospital visit. Clinical and support staff find it just as frustrating having to ask them.

“If today’s funding is invested in the right tools and technology on wards, in clinics and in the community, clinical staff can spend less of their valuable time filling in forms and more of it giving patients the care and treatment they need.”


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