£1 billion to help A&Es and NHS staff access medical records in hi-tech hospital revolution

The money will form part of the government’s long term solution to pressures on A&E by freeing up doctors, nurses and care professionals’ time to care for patients and cut down on paperwork and bureaucracy.

This new funding will help deliver the government’s commitment to allow everyone to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online by March 2015, as well as give everyone who wants it online access to their GP record.

One of the key things the money will be spent on will be systems which allow hospitals, GP surgeries and out of hours doctors to share access to patients’ electronic records, which means:

  • 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, so will be able to give them personal and effective treatment with full knowledge of their medical and care history;

  • Health and care professionals will have this information at their fingertips so can spend more time seeing patients and less time filling in paperwork; and

  • Errors will be reduced, as it will stop drugs being prescribed incorrectly because patients’ paper notes have been lost.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

The public are rightly sceptical about NHS IT after the disastrous waste that happened in the past. But we can’t let their 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.

That’s why I’ve set the NHS the challenge of going paperless by 2018. But rather than imposing a clunky one size fits all approach from Whitehall, this fund will empower local clinicians and health services to come together and find innovative solutions for their patients. Technology is key to helping our A&E staff meet the massive demand they face as the population increases and ages.

Paperless systems help staff in Accident and Emergency departments by helping them manage patients and giving them instant access to a patient’s medical notes and care records. That means patients can avoid going through lots of unnecessary diagnostic tests – and even being admitted to hospital overnight – because A&E staff don’t know the background and history of the patient in front of them. And it means patients are less likely to be given the wrong medication, or something they might be allergic to, because clinicians don’t have access to the right information. Patients are also less likely to get stuck in hospital because no-one can decipher handwritten discharge forms.

David Dalton, Chief Executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust said:

This new funding is great news for the NHS. I’m really pleased that the government is supporting local IT solutions to local problems – this is so much better than the previous one-size-fits-all approach. 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, said:

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.

This money will help meet the phenomenal demand there has already been from the health and care system for funding for technology. Hospitals know how important technology is for giving patients high quality services and making life easier for hard working health and care professionals. Now we can increase things like ‘electronic prescribing’ – which means computer generated prescriptions sent by doctors directly to pharmacies, linked to barcodes unique to each patient. This kind of technology plays a huge part in cutting errors and improving safety.

Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information for NHS England said:

We are delighted with the additional £240m for the ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards’ fund to help patients get better and safer 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.

This extra funding will help us better meet the overwhelming demand from the ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards’ fund announced in May this year. It’s great news for the NHS and great news for patients.

Background information

  • Further details on how to apply to the fund will be published in due course.

  • The Department of Health will be putting up a total of £500 million funding, and local health and care systems will be matching all the funding they receive. That means the total that will be made available for technology will be £1 billion. The £260 million announced earlier this year forms part of the Department of Health’s contribution. NHS England is currently running second stage evaluation of this fund and expect to announce successful bidders at the end of October.

  • Last November, we announced in the NHS Mandate that by March 2015 everyone who wants it will be able to get online access to their GP record, as well as book appointments with their GP and order repeat prescriptions online.

  • We also earlier this year announced a £100 million for technology and training for nurses so they spend more time with patients, not paperwork.

  • We have changed the standard NHS contract to insist that providers comply with defined information standards.

  • In June the government announced a £3.8bn pooled fund to promote joint working between the health service, and care and support in 2015/16. The Integration Transformation Fund includes a number of national conditions, one of which is that local plans for use of the fund must include proposals for better data sharing between health and social care.

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