The Health Minister, Alan Milburn, has announced an injection of #150 million to connect general practitioners' computers into the National Health Service network.
The aim is to do for health services what online booking has done for airlines, providing GPs with access to specialist medical opinion, faster turn-around of test results, rapid booking of hospital appointments and the ability to share information among surgeries. Connecting to pharmacies to speed up the prescribing and dispensing of medicines is also under consideration.
Full connectivity will come in 2002, but it is expected that by the end of 1999, GPs will be able to receive test results over the NHS Net.
?It will make the NHS quicker and more accessible for patients,? said Milburn. ?It will make expert advice available at the touch of a button in every surgery. This new investment will help build a modern and dependable NHS for the next century.?
As with the national Grid for Learning, an network initiative for education announced last October, the Government?s investment is a ?seedcorn?, and it is expected that private companies will fulfil much of the infrastructure and service provision for the NHS Net.
The Department of Health said the confidentiality of patient data would be ensured, but details of security measures were not available.
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