Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt today announced a new £260 million fund for hospitals to increase the use of technology.
The fund will be used by hospitals to replace outdated paper based systems for patient notes and prescriptions, and is a critical stepping-stone in helping the NHS go digital by 2018.
The fund will help protect patients by ensuring that doctors and nurses are able to access accurate details about the care of a patient. And it will make a patient’s journey through different parts of the NHS much safer, because their records can follow them electronically wherever they go.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
“In many places, right now, a paramedic picking up a frail elderly woman who has had a fall will not always know she has dementia, because he or she cannot access her notes. Or a doctor is prescribing the wrong drugs, because they don’t know what drugs their patient is already on.
“If we are to improve patient safety then we must allow the NHS to have access to the best tools available and this fund will help them achieve that.”
The fund will be used primarily for ‘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.
Errors in prescriptions are present in as many as 8% of hospital prescriptions and studies have shown that the use of technology can cut these errors by half. Last year at least 11 people died in the NHS because they were given the wrong prescriptions. It will also help stop drugs being prescribed incorrectly because patients’ notes have been lost.
The fund will also be used for creating electronic systems, linked to patient records, which talk to each other right across hospitals. St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust already has all of its patient records accessible online for doctors and nurses. New Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham has an online ‘portal’ that allows patients to view and update their own medical records so doctors can get instant, real-time updates.
NHS hospitals can bid for the money to fund projects but in order to be eligible, they must demonstrate that these will lead to better, safer care.
A commitment was made 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.
Details about how to apply for the fund will be published soon.