Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged the NHS to shake off the demons from the disastrous National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and focus on making the UK a global hub for health technology.
The UK will also become the first country to allow online access to information about NHS doctors’ surgical survival rates across 10 specialities so patients can easily compare performance, Hunt told the Financial Times.
“It’s going to save thousands of lives and it’s going to drive up our clinical standards to the very best in the world, where they aren’t already,” said Hunt.
The Health Secretary was in the US this week addressing policy makers and IT providers, claiming that the UK’s health industry will be an exciting place for watching the latest technology developments.
“We think that over the next three years Britain will become the most interesting country in the world when it comes to health technology,” Hunt said.
“And we think that, just as a few things came together that led to the birth of the internet and the whole Silicon Valley explosion, we are actively trying to create a series of contributions in the UK that mean that we are the global hub of health technology.”
The government recently revealed that all health records held by a patient’s GP should be accessible online by March 2015 and by 2018 digital records will cover both health and social care services.
This mandate follows the failure of the multi-billion NPfIT, which aimed to create electronic records for every patient in the UK through a centralised system. Hunt hopes that the costly disaster won’t impede progress in implementing health technology in the future.
“It was a huge disaster ... It was a project that was so huge in its conception but it got more and more specified and over-specified and in the end became impossible to deliver,” he said.
“But we mustn’t let that blind us to the opportunities of technology and I think of my jobs as health secretary is to say, look, we must learn from that and move on but we must not be scared of technology as a result.”
He added: “I’m not signing any big contracts from behind [my] desk; I am encouraging hospitals and clinical commissioning groups and GP practices to make their own investments in technology at the grassroots level.”