Minister George Freeman wants a paperless NHS and says Norfolk health bosses should have more power locally

George Freeman, the minister for life sciences.

George Freeman, the minister for life sciences. - Credit: Archant

While the NHS grapples with winter pressures, financial uncertainty, and an ageing population, one Norfolk MP is playing a key role in determining the organisation's future.

The art on George Freeman's office walls paints the picture of a man who is constitutionally confused.

Portraits of the Queen and Oliver Cromwell hang near his desk, suggesting here is a life sciences minister who struggles to choose a direction.

But it is obvious that when it comes to planning the future of the NHS, the Mid-Norfolk MP has no such dilemmas.

While health secretary Jeremy Hunt is the face of the Department of Health, in the background Mr Freeman is playing a leading role in the government's efforts to introduce new technologies to the NHS.

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He is clear that more technology is a necessity, with one of his ambitions being to turn the NHS into a 'paperless organisation' by 2018.

'This isn't about computerised healthcare, it's about liberating nurses and doctors to stop them being distracted from doing their actual job,' he says.

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'We want to create electronic health records so you can tap on your phone, log in, and see your treatment history.

'For example a lot of GPs spend much time organising prescriptions, but the patient should be able to sort that out on the phone and have it delivered to their home.

'Or when I go to see my GP or to hospital I don't want to have to tell them my medical history – I want them to be able to access all that on their iPad straight away.'

When asked how local services can be improved in the longer term, Mr Freeman believes the answer lies in giving Norfolk's bosses more power over the estimated £2bn spent in the county on health and care.

'George Osborne is pushing for devolution for economic growth, and I think the same can apply to health,' he said. 'We have tested to destruction the idea that Whitehall knows best and that GPs, doctors, and nurses are driven by targets for London.

'I think you can envisage providers in Norfolk saying 'if we've got £2bn for one county couldn't we spend it better?'

'I would love Norfolk to think about – in its devolution bid – a really bold programme to tackle the integration of primary, hospital, and community care.

'I want Norfolk to be more challenging and more ambitious. I think we have been treated as a bit of a backwater for years.'

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