Tags: Paperless

Jeremy Hunt’s Dismissal Of A Paperless NHS Target Shouldn’t Detract Us From The Goal

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“I am quite relieved that most people seem to have forgotten that I made that promise.”

A lot of us working in NHS IT were quite surprised to hear that claim from the Health Secretary.

The promise Jeremy Hunt was referring to was nothing less than the directive from the Department of Health for us all to work to in order to become fully paperless by 2018.

To quote respected public sector ICT site diginomica’s write up of the Secretary’s appearance before the NHS Sustainability Committee, ‘The paperless NHS by 2018 challenge was announced by the Health Secretary back in 2013. Somewhere along the line this got pushed back to paperless by 2020. However, following a review by Professor Bob Wachter of the University of California, which stated that the 2020 target was also “likely to fail”, it is now thought we are looking at at least 2023 before the ambition is realised’.

Hunt told MPs that he “made big, bold statements about” going paperless, admitting he’d perhaps “rather bravely said I wanted the NHS to be paperless by 2018 in my first few months as Health Secretary”. (Hunt made the admission to the Committee in a closed December meet – the remarks were only made public last week.)

2018 might well be a realistic target for some ambitious Trusts

The problem for some us is that the sector took the plan to become fully digital very seriously.

After all a paper-free NHS was a route of travel that at one time featured its own special section on the DoH website, was regularly discussed by Jeremy Hunt and senior stakeholders in NHS England – and Trust IT managers had to find ways to deliver against it [https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jeremy-hunt-challenges-nhs-to-go-paperless-by-2018—2]. Only last year, Hunt announced that he had received an extra £4bn to help Trusts get there.

The good news is that the promise of going digital hasn’t being forgotten by Hunt or NHS England – it’s just been pushed out further, as we try and action some of the Digital Exemplar and other items that came out of last September’s Wachter Review.

Hunt did confirm all this in his Committee appearance and there’s lots of great progress being made. After all, it would be a false economy to scrap the target if it’s anything to do with saving money on IT as paper is far more expensive in the long term.

We know. We are seeing it every day with our NHS clients, who are achieving great things with content management in cutting down the paper chain and achieving the kind of benefits that the 2013 set of objectives called for.

That doesn’t mean there still isn’t work to do in terms of getting to paperless. Although a lot of digital format medical and patient data is starting to circulate between some parts of the local health system, even some of it as far as A&E, it’s not yet flowing as well as it could be inside the Trust as a whole.

We’re a bit disappointed with the Health Secretary for being a bit flippant about something we take very seriously.

But that hasn’t lessened the commitment we have as an NHS IT supplier to the goal of a digital, joined up NHS.

And some of us will get there in 2018.

Now that’s the kind of big, bold statement I like.

Gary Britnell
Head of the Healthcare Practice
SynApps Solutions UK

Manchester Was The Countdown To A Huge Digital NHS Push – Are You Ready?

medic-563425_1920Anyone who is part of the UK health IT community gets used to big statements regularly being made about the digitisation of the NHS.

Last month, the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt spoke at the Health and Social Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, and finally set the seal on what the government expects the NHS to do next.

I probably don’t have to tell you about the context; the 2020 paperless NHS target, the NHS’s Five Year Forward View to ‘harness the information revolution,’ and the findings of the Wachter Review into what needs to be done (see here).

What matters now is what the Secretary specifically announced. (This is the main DoH press release)

The new website will also enable patients to download their personal health records to their phone securely

Hunt confirmed there are three broad themes in the current NHS IT plan, which are a renewed focus on interoperable electronic health records, a call for more use of patient-focused digital technology, and another go at care.data – data harvesting and exploitation of NHS information through secondary use of data, transparency and consent.

These themes matter, as they a) gave specifics on what the government expects the NHS to do with IT reform and b) reset some deadlines, most especially the 2020 paperless target, which has been pushed out to 2023 due to Wachter’s intervention.

Most germane for CCIOs is what NHS England, and more crucially NHS Digital (the old HSCIC), sees as its role in the post-Wachter regime. NHS England lists the following as the most important outcomes of Hunt’s September speech as the Exemplars, the opening up of official NHS apps and a major refresh of the main NHS website: “NHS Choices website will be relaunched as NHS.UK with a wider range of online patient services, including the ability to register with a GP, book appointments, and order and track prescriptions all in one place. The new website will also enable patients to download their personal health records to their phone securely, giving them instant access to important healthcare information, such as prescriptions and test results” (see here).

Now, a lot of this is outside what most Trusts will have to immediately worry about. But there were absolutely some things that will concern them. Consider this:

“Instant access to personal health records online – inspired by the ‘blue button’ app in the US, the new NHS.UK site will also enable patients to securely download their personal health records, giving them instant access to important healthcare information, such as prescriptions and test results.”

and this:

“More interactive, local information about the performance of health services – from today, the MyNHS website will give better data on how NHS services are performing across dementia, diabetes and learning disability services. Maternity, cancer and mental health data will follow later this year. In future, the revamped site will also include maps, graphs and tools so that patients can see how the performance of their local services has changed over time.”

The central role at local level of the IDCR to make this data-driven NHS work

The keyword for the NHS IT leader of today is data.

The Secretary says there is £4bn available now to digitize the NHS along these lines.

That data, however, is useless unless it is made interoperable and securely shareable.

Which is where our attention has been focused, with our work on helping draw up realistic roadmaps for helping health and social care organisations deploy Integrated Digital Care Records (see here).

So to sum up, this is the SynApps view:

Manchester was where the blue touch paper was lit for the next phase of IT innovation in the NHS.

Data is central.

And the IDCR is going to be a key way to deliver against all of this.

I encourage any NHS IT team to get in touch – and let’s see how we can help you make all of this a reality at your local and regional level.

Gary Britnell

SynApps Solutions Healthcare Business