NHS: Seven times ministers have promised the health service will ‘go paperless’

A paperless NHS been promised repeatedly by multiple ministers since 1992 but it will exist one day...probably


One of Jeremy Hunt’s first tasks when he became health secretary in 2012 was to set the NHS a challenge to 'go paperless' by April 2018. That meant that any crucial health information on patients would be available to staff across the health service 'at the touch of a button' within three years, according to Hunt.

Despite committing more than £1 billion out of a £4 billion transformation programme towards achieving the target, the deadline was abandoned by the end of 2016. The cancellation was revealed when comments from House of Lords select committee on the Long Term Sustainability of the NHS were published in February 2017.

His pledge was far from the first time that a minister had committed the NHS to ditching paper and using digital tools instead. It had initially promised as far back as 1992 – a whopping 25 years ago.

Between now and then, we’ve seen successive governments and ministers promise to make the NHS paperless. There has been notable progress in that time – the fact we all have an NHS number and electronic health records are widely-adopted, for example. However paper processes are still rife in the health service.

Here are the main milestones towards the 'paperless NHS' so far…