UK heads towards paperless health service with £260m digital project

Cash from the Department of Health has been awarded to hospitals in England as part of an effort to help the NHS go paperless by 2018.
Written by Sam Shead, Contributor

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that the government will spend £260m to help replace paper-based patient records and prescriptions with electronic systems.

The money will primarily be spent on developing computer generated prescriptions, which would be sent directly from GPs to pharmacies and save doctors from having to write out physical prescriptions.

It could also reduce the chances of someone receiving the wrong prescription, something which resulted in at least 11 deaths in the NHS last year. 

The fund will also be used to create electronic systems that can store and share patient care records across hospitals and services in the NHS. 

"This fund will allow doctors and nurses to make the NHS safer by harnessing the very latest technology," said Hunt in a statement on Friday. "In many places, right now, a paramedic picking up a frail elderly woman who has had a fall will not always know she has dementia, because he or she cannot access her notes. Or a doctor is prescribing the wrong drugs, because they don’t know what drugs their patient is already on."

The money will be awarded to hospitals in England and help make the NHS digital by 2018, according to the Department of Health. 

The NHS has for some time been working on the creation of Summary Care Records (SCRs), which stored patient's medical history on a central database, unless they decided to opt out.

The creation of SCRs was temporarily stopped by the coalition government in April 2010, but given the green light again a year later. At the time of its revival, 5.7 million SCRs had been created across England and 30.3 million patients had been contacted about the scheme. 

A Department of Health spokesman told ZDNet that the £260m is aimed at the acute sector, which is responsible for providing emergency, short-term medical assistance from hospitals. 

The government announced a seperate government fund to roll out EPS across the primary sector in 2008. The primary sector consists of community-based facilities that provide ongoing treatment for local patients with varying medical needs. 

"With its focus on the acute sector, this fund compliments the work of the EPS programme in the primary care sector," said the spokesman.  

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