[Westminster, UK / Implementations] - The government is to put a billion pounds of extra investment into technology to improve patient care and ease pressure on A&E departments.
The new money, it is being claimed, will do that by freeing up doctors, nurses and care professionals′ time to care for patients while also cutting down on paperwork and bureaucracy.
Strictly speaking, the amount of "extra" new money is only £240m, though: the Department of Health will be putting up a total of £500m funding and local health and care systems will be matching all the funding they receive, and some £260m announced in May (http://www.bj-hc.co.uk/bjhc-news/news-detail.html?news=2515&lang=en&feed=130) forms part of the Department of Health′s contribution.
Key to the plans are ideas for pushing ahead with electronic patient records, which are being positioned as ideal for hospitals, GP surgeries and out of hours doctors to share access to patients′ details.
Such records will also be set up so that doctors, nurses and social care professionals providing emergency care will be able to access patients′ complete medical details, "routinely across the country for the first time."
Acknowledging that this was precisely the aim of the failed National Programme for IT, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, says this time success will nonetheless be achieved: "The public are rightly sceptical about NHS IT after the disastrous waste that happened in the past - but we can′t let [that] failure hold patients back from seeing the benefits of the technology revolution that is transforming daily lives.
"It is deeply frustrating to hear stories of elderly dementia patients turning up at A&E with no one able to access their medical history, and for their sakes as well as all NHS users we need to put this right."
Hunt says this new attempt to build workable electronic patient records for the NHS will be all about the ′empowering′ of local clinicians and health services to come together and find innovative solutions for their patients as opposed to the Programme′s "clunky, one size fits all, approach from Whitehall."
Great news for the NHS
"This new funding is great news for the NHS," responded David Dalton, Chief Executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.
"Investing in electronic patient records has the power to transform patient care. It has been key to helping us improve safety and drive up standards of care for patients in Salford."
Dame Julie Moore, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, added, "It′s encouraging that the Government are placing such a priority on improving technology in the NHS, and backing hospitals to become more hi-tech. Technology has been key to helping us improve safety and drive up standards for patients in Birmingham. We can′t let past NHS IT failures hold us back from embracing technology′s power to transform patient care." "A single patient record will help make the patient journey from hospital to home seamless, giving professionals from different health and care organisations access to information when they need it most, without patients having to repeat themselves every time they speak to a different doctor, nurse or care professional," predicted Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information for NHS England.
Further details on how clinicians can apply to the fund will be published in due course; NHS England is currently running second stage evaluation of this fund and expect to announce successful bidders at the end of October. [gf]
Please visit the NHS England website for more information on the Technology Fund