The government has announced an additional round of funding to support new investment in technology across the NHS, which will bring the total funds available to £1 billion.
The Department of Health (DH) has added £240 million to its £260 million announced earlier this year, which will in turn be matched by local health and care systems.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the money to be used to help deliver the government’s commitment to allow everyone to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online by March 2015, as well as give everyone who wants it online access to their GP record.
The £1 billion will also be spent on systems which allow hospitals, GP surgeries and out of hours doctors to share patients’ electronic records, which will allow access to complete medical records across the country for the first time.
The government claims that this approach will result in errors, such as drugs being prescribed incorrectly and patient notes being lost, being reduced.
Hunt is keen to not repeat the mistakes made by the Labour government with the failed National Programme for IT, which is still costing the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.
“The public are rightly sceptical about NHS IT after the disastrous waste that happened in the past. But we can’t let their failure hold patients back from seeing the benefits of the technology revolution that is transforming daily lives,” said the health secretary.
“It is deeply frustrating to hear stories of elderly dementia patients turning up at A&E with no one able to access their medical history, and for their sakes as well as all NHS users, we need to put this right.”
He added: “That’s why I’ve set the NHS the challenge of going paperless by 2018. But rather than imposing a clunky one size fits all approach from Whitehall, this fund will empower local clinicians and health services to come together and find innovative solutions for their patients.”
It was revealed at the beginning of the year that Hunt wants the NHS to be paperless by 2018, which he claims will save the government some £4.4 billion a year.
The NHS Commissioning Board will be leading the implementation and it has set a clear expectation that hospitals should plan to make information digitally and securely available by 2014/15.
Tola Sargeant, director at analyst house TechMarketView, believes that the money will be good news for software and IT service (SITS) suppliers that “enable interoperability between GP and acute settings and online access to patient records”.
She said: “This includes the likes of EMIS and INPS in primary care and ACS in urgent care.
“However, given the NHS’ track record with technology, we remain sceptical as to whether such a relatively small pot of money can deliver the government’s ambitious goal of a paperless NHS by 2018.”