Does the NHS need bringing into the digital age?

The Health Secretary will detail how the drive towards a paperless NHS

The Health Secretary will detail how the drive towards a paperless NHS - Credit: PA

Jeremy Hunt is to announce a £4.2 billion investment to bring the NHS into the digital age.

The Health Secretary will detail how the drive towards a 'paperless' NHS will make services more convenient, help clinicians provide faster diagnoses and lead to more time spent caring for patients.

The cash injection is also expected to play a huge part in helping the NHS save £22 billion by reducing waste and increasing productivity.

Full details of the funding are being agreed between the Department of Health and NHS England, but are expected to include £1.8 billion to create a paper-free NHS and remove outdated technology like fax machines, £1 billion on cyber security and data consent, and £750 million to transform out-of-hospital care, medicines, and digitalise social, urgent and emergency care.

Meanwhile, around £400 million will enable the NHS to build a new website, NHS.uk, develop apps and provide free wi-fi.

Mr Hunt said: 'The NHS has the opportunity to become a world leader in introducing new technology - which means better patient outcomes and a revolution in healthcare at home.

'On the back of a strong economy, and because of our belief in the NHS and its values, we are investing more than £4 billion across the health system to ease pressure on the frontline and create stronger partnerships between doctor and patient.'

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The funding will allow patients to book services and order prescriptions online, access apps and digital tools and choose to speak to their doctor online or via video-link.

Everyone will have access to their own electronic health record, which will be shared between professionals to prevent patients from having to repeat their medical history.

Patients will also be given the opportunity to upload and send real-time data to medical professionals on long-term conditions such as blood pressure.

By 2020, it is hoped that 25% of all patients with long term conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer will be able to monitor their health remotely.

Andy Williams, chief executive of the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said: 'Over the next few years HSCIC will be focusing on delivering technological solutions that enable better care and that free up time and resources to allow frontline workers to focus on their patients.

'We are committed to enabling patients to be involved with their care and to have secure access to their medical records, allowing them to take control of their own health and to work in partnership with care providers.'

The Government is planning to roll out free wi-fi in all NHS buildings and is developing a new click and collect service for prescriptions.

It aims to have at least 10% of patients accessing GP services online and through apps by March 2017, and rivals Google, Apple and Microsoft will team up with the NHS to ensure the apps are fully supported across mobile platforms.

Examples of NHS-accredited apps include one developed by young people to help prevent self-harm, and another that can help care home workers identify the early signs of dementia among residents.

Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes- said: 'This investment has huge potential to help our health and social care system deliver care that is tailored to the individual.

'With two thirds of people with dementia living in the community, health technology as part of a comprehensive care package can be invaluable in helping people to remain independent and in their own homes for as long as possible.'

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