Hancock vows to eliminate paper prescriptions, pledges commitment to drive interoperable data standards

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged his commitment to make interoperability a reality and eliminate paper prescriptions.


[London, UK] Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has vowed to scrap paper prescriptions amid plans to change current regulation limiting e-prescribing across the NHS.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed changes would be made to ‘expand electronic prescribing for nearly all prescriptions’ later this year.

“As part of our long-term plan, I want the NHS to become the most advanced healthcare system in the world. Electronic prescribing both saves GPs’ time and helps to give patients a better, more seamless experience and ensures every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent effectively,” the secretary said.

The DHSC says the switch to e-prescribing could save the NHS up to £300m by 2021.

NHS Digital figures showed that 63% of GP surgeries were using electronic prescribing as of June 2018.

However, thousands of paper prescriptions are still issued every year. 

“In an NHS where thousands of GP surgeries already enjoy the benefits of electronic prescriptions, it can’t be right that there are occasions when archaic paper prescriptions still have to be used,” Hancock added.

Last week, after an overnight shift at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the London Ambulance Service, the secretary promised to make interoperability a reality, and recently appointed Hadley Beeman, former tech and security expert at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as his chief technology adviser. 

In a Facebook post, Hancock explained:

“I was already motivated to improve the IT of the NHS – but boy! Chelsea & Westminster Hospital is one of the better trusts for IT, but even there there is so far to go.

“And it was through no fault of their own – but rather the lack of national interoperability standards means systems just can’t talk to each other, so people are forced to revert to pen and paper.

“Staff were hindered by IT in a way that we simply wouldn’t accept in any other organisation in the 21st century. Tonight has motivated me more than ever to sort this out: interoperable data standards are on their way.”

Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust has been selected to take part in the flagship Global Digital Exemplar programme, which includes 'the most advanced IT hospitals in the NHS (...) committed to work to become world class exemplars for the rest of the NHS to learn from'.

Earlier this month, six of the world’s biggest technology companies, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce publicly pledged to remove healthcare interoperability barriers at a conference in the US - but no further plans have been announced so far.

Leontina Postelnicu

To share tips, news or announcements, contact the writer on lpostelnicu@himss.org

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