Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a fund of £260m to help the NHS become digital and make better use of technology.
In January, Hunt said the NHS would be paperless by 2018, while the government also wants to give people the ability to access their health records held by their GP by 2015. The £260m is the first amount of funding that the government has revealed will be spent on the digital overhaul.
"This fund will allow doctors and nurses to make the NHS safer by harnessing the very latest technology," said Hunt. "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 Department of Health (DoH) said the new health fund will be primarily used for ‘electronic prescribing', which is when doctors send computer-generated prescriptions to pharmacies, using barcodes unique to each patient.
The fund will also be used for creating the first steps of an electronic system for patient care records. The DoH gave the example of a system at St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust, which has patient records electronically accessible online for doctors and nurses. Other NHS hospitals will be able to bid for the money to fund projects.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England said: "This new fund will help patients get better and safer care by giving clinicians access to the right information when they need it most.
"Supporting hospitals to replace outdated paper systems for notes and prescriptions will help relieve patients’ frustration at having to repeat their medical and medication history over and over again, often in the same hospital, because their records aren’t available."
Further details on the NHS digital strategy are due to be revealed this June, while a 10-year strategic vision document for health sector IT will be published in December.
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