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NHS urged to get a move on with digitisation



National director for patients and information tells clinicians that without fully digitised patient data the NHS cannot modernise

The Department of Health is to mount a new push to persuade NHS organisations in England to adopt digital services and modernise their communications, with its national director for patients and information telling clinicians and NHS managers that “without fully digitised patient data that can be shared across healthcare settings, the NHS cannot modernise in the way that is required.”

Speaking at the NHS Innovation Expo Conference in Manchester this week, Tim Kelsey will urge NHS organisations to modernise the ways in which they communicate with patients, fellow clinicians and other health providers. He is expected to say that “health and social care services in England must end the unnecessary reliance on paper in the treatment of patients.  It’s key to making services safer, more effective and more efficient.”

Dustbin of history

“Every day, care is held up and patients are kept waiting while an army of people transport and store huge quantities of paper round our healthcare system,” his draft speech reads. “This approach is past its sell by date.  We need to consign to the dustbin of history the industry in referral letters, the outdated use of fax machines and the trolleys groaning with patients’ notes. As well as saving precious resources, technology can dramatically reduce errors. Urgent action is a moral imperative”.

Kelsey is also expected to announce new measures to support better use of technology in healthcare, with the aim of eliminating the use of paper documents in the treatment of patients by 2020. The department has already put in place levers such as an October deadline for completing electronic discharge summaries for acute or day care patients transferring from hospital to GP care; a national ‘digital maturity index’ of clinical commissioning groups; and a Mental Health Apps Library, launched in March.

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