Linking the NHS hearing screening programme for newborn babies with its baby registration scheme marks a big step in the development of electronic patient records.
The Newborn Hearing Screen Project, which kicked off in 2001, enables early identification of hearing problems in babies.
It has been linked with NHS Numbers for Babies, launched in October last year, which allows midwives to issue NHS numbers at birth.
The NHS claims that fewer babies will fall through the hearing screening process as a result, and that data entry will be reduced.
Supported by IT from Northgate Information Solutions and BT's systems integration arm Syntegra, the project also represents the first nationwide web-based system deployed on NHSnet, the NHS's secure wide area network.
Gwyn Thomas, chief executive of the NHS Information Authority, said in a statement: "Thanks to the infrastructure that Numbers For Babies provides, the nationwide delivery of programmes like the NHS Hearing Screening Programme is now possible.
"Its unprecedented success now paves the way for more early tests to be implemented as soon after birth as possible."
An NHS number is issued by midwives though a computerised Central Issue System, developed and supported by Syntegra in a deal worth around £2m over eight years.
It provides a common link between a patient's records across the NHS, both electronic and manual, and is the cornerstone of the move towards electronic health records.
Last month the 500,000th NHS number was issued to a baby, 10 months after the scheme was introduced.
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