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UK Health Secretary sets out £4.2 billion ‘digital NHS’ vision

Published on 08/02/16 at 09:40am
Jeremy Hunt appears on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show February 7

UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a £4.2 billion investment in the National Health Service (NHS) which will help update technologies and create a "paperless NHS".

Hunt says such investment in cutting-edge technology can help save time for healthcare professionals, freeing them up to spend more time with their patients and enabling faster diagnoses.

While full details of the funding are yet to be decided by the Department of Health and NHS England, it is believed some £1.8 billion has been earmarked for the creation of the paperless healthcare service, an additional £1 billion to invest in digital security and data consent, and £750 million to upgrade out-of-hospital care and medicines, and to digitise social and urgent/emergency care services.

Some £400 million will also be invested into improving digital services for patients- including an updated NHS website and apps- and free Wi-fi across all health service buildings. The Government is targeting 10% of patients to access GP services online and through apps by March 2017, and fro 25% of patients with chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer to monitor their symptoms remotely by 2020.

It is hoped that the efficiencies enabled by the investment could help save the healthcare service more than £22 billion.

The Government says it is also developing a new click and collect service for prescriptions, and plans are underway to give patients full access to their health records online- also enabling them to upload data from mobile health apps for their medical professionals’ reference.

Jeremy Hunt comments: "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."

Global healthcare and life sciences IT provider IMS Health welcomed the Government’s announcement: general manager, for UK & Ireland, Tim Sheppard, saying the investment represents a “major step forward.” He continues: “This investment will support the generation of valuable data to help improve patient choice and drive better analysis and outcomes across the NHS and IMS Health is proud to be at the forefront of this”.

Scepticism came from Labour Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders, who said Hunt was simply rehashing old announcements, and that the NHS faced a crisis.

Madders comments: “The Tories cannot hide from the fact that the NHS is going backwards on their watch. Hospital departments have become dangerously full, patients are waiting hours in A&E, and the health service is facing the worst financial crisis in a generation."

Joel Levy

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