NHS promises real-time digital health and care records by 2020

The NHS has announced a commitment for all citizens’ health and care records to be available digitally in real-time by 2020.

The deadline was announced in the NHS ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ strategy launched today.

The document said NHS bodies will agree interoperability standards for records and plans for them to be embedded by April 2015, with commissioners to develop ‘roadmaps’ for their introduction by April 2016.

The document also set out plans for the health service to start kitemarking apps, digital services and devices in a drive to help patients manage their own health better. The NHS said it will publish proposals by next June and start accrediting apps by the end of 2015.

Earlier deadlines

The 2020 target follows deadlines for patients to be able to book appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access GP health records online by March 2015. Currently only four percent of records are accessible online, according to the BBC.

The strategy said “clinicians in primary, urgent and emergency care and other key transitions of care contexts” will be operating without paper records by 2018.

It is unclear whether this will satisfy an earlier target set out by health minister Jeremy Hunt for a ‘paperless NHS’ with digitised health records to be fully available across NHS and social care services by April 2018.

ComputerworldUK asked NHS England if it expects the 2015 or 2018 deadlines to be met but is yet to receive a response.

No extra funding for plans

The document includes general, high-level aims for the NHS to “support care professionals to make the best use of data and technology” and “make the quality of care transparent”.

The authors did not quantify the savings that could result from digital investments, but said they could be “significant” if deployed as part of “transformational change”.

However they added that no extra funding will be made available to meet the aims of the strategy. Projections by NHS England suggest the health service could face a funding gap of about £30 billion a year by 2021.

The document also set out plans to rank NHS trusts by their ‘digital maturity’ with key indicators for the index to be published by October 2015. The index will be taken into consideration by hospital inspectors in future, it said.

The NHS also said it would work to improve adoption and use of mobile technologies to help healthcare professionals to collaborate and improve delivery and evaluation of care in "community and home care settings".

The report was written by the National Information Board (NIB), a newly-created body responsible for setting strategy and direction for information and technology in the health and care system.

Tim Kelsey

The board is chaired by NHS patients and information director Tim Kelsey, who recently warned that NHS England could go bust by 2020 if it doesn’t improve its use of data and information and adopt digital tools.

Kelsey masterminded the controversial care.data scheme to create a database of people’s GP medical records.

GP surgeries in four areas of England started to pilot the scheme this autumn, testing different types of communication with their patients such as individually addressed letters, leaflets, e-mails and text messages.

The initiative, which aims to set up a database of people’s GP medical records, was originally due to start extracting data from GPs in April.

However the start of collection was delayed in February to provide more time to inform the public, after a backlash from privacy experts who said that patients would be easily identifiable by data linkage.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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