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Minister sets target for use of electronic patient records in England


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Sajid Javid
Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

Electronic patient records are to be rolled out to 90% of trusts in England by December 2023, according to plans announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.

He also outlined an ambition for 75% of adults to be using the NHS App by March 2024 and a commitment to publish a Digital Health Plan during the spring.

Javid (pictured) was speaking at the HSJ Digital Transformation Summit, where he emphasised the importance of the issue to the reform of health and social care.

He said the plan for trusts to use electronic patient records also involves all social care providers adopting a digital record.

“We have undeniably seen brilliant progress,” he said. “But this progress hasn’t always been consistent across the board. For example, one in five trusts still do not have electronic patient records.

“Electronic patient records are the essential prerequisite for a modern, digital NHS. Without them, we cannot achieve the full potential for reform.

“So I want to accelerate the roll out of these vital records, with a new approach so that we hit 90% coverage by the end of next year.

“I want to see a particular focus on social care, where around 40% of providers are still grappling entirely with paper based records. So I want to see all social care providers adopt a digital social care record.”

'Front door' app

He added that the drive to increase take-up of the NHS App by the public will involve the introduction of new features – with work already taking place to provide information on estimated waiting times and the results of blood tests – and showing that “it will be a future front door for interacting with the NHS”.

Javid set out ambitions to utilise NHS data to support innovation, citing the example of how during the Covid-19 pandemic it has been used in the Recovery trial that led to the discovery of the Dexamethasone treatment.

“The NHS has a precious resource in the form of data that can offer so much insight to pioneers in the life sciences, including some of the world’s largest genomic datasets,” he said.

“But we know that there is more to do to build trust in the use of data and reassure the public that the data will be used securely. For instance, making it smoother and safer for researchers to access and use data, through requiring the use of trusted research environments.”

He said the Digital Health Plan would build on lessons learned during the pandemic and help to drive change in the sector.

Money for virtual wards

Javid also declared a desire to speed up the roll out of virtual wards to treat patients, supported by the provision of £450 million over the next two years, and provided a rationale for the ongoing consolidation of NHS England, NHSX and NHS Digital, with the latter two being absorbed into a new Transformation Directorate.

“I couldn’t imagine any other digitally focused organisation, like a big supermarket or for that matter any FTSE 100 company - imagine these huge complex organisation - allowing responsibility for one of the most important levers for change – digital - to sit outside their organisation,” he said.

“So as you know the Wade-Gery report recommended that we make structural changes to put digital transformation at the heart of the NHS, and I agreed with that wholeheartedly.”

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