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Government sets out paperless NHS target for 2018

16 Jan 2013
NHS doctor using a computer

The NHS has been given new targets by the government to make better use of IT and become paperless by 2018.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has outlined how improvements in NHS IT will save the taxpayer £4bn while reducing hassle for patients and staff.

"The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution," said Hunt.

"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."

The NHS Commissioning Board will lead the implementation of paperless records.

In November last year, Hunt launched the government's NHS Mandate, which promised by 2015 everyone who wishes will be able to get online access to their own health records held by their GP.

Patients will be given digital records so their health information can follow them around the health and social care system.

Hunt has again made reference to this mandate, while criticising Labour's attempt to set up a centralised healthcare record system.

"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," said Hunt.

The last Labour government famously tried to put an Integrated Care Records Service in place to ensure every citizen had a singular health record that could be shared throughout the NHS.

This National Programme for IT (NPfIT) was a humiliating failure owing to continued installation setbacks, data management problems and a cost that amounted to over £12bn.

However, while Hunt criticised the NPfIT, he did not explain how he intends to digitise the NHS paper system, or how he intends to create an IT system that will carry healthcare records throughout the NHS.

Although the Tories, when campaigning for government in 2010, set forth plans to allow patients to manage their data and choose the online providers with which they would store their health records. There was even talk of using Microsoft HealthVault or GoogleHealth as the online providers.

V3 made calls last week for the NHS to wake up to modern day IT.

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Rosalie Marshall

Rosalie Marshall is the special projects editor and chief reporter at V3. Previously she was a reporter for IT Week and channel editor for online television site Rosalie covers government IT, business applications, IT skills, open source technology and social networks.

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