A Paperless NHS, 1 year to go…

In January 2013, under a coalition government, Jeremy Hunt made an ambitious commitment that the NHS would be paperless by 2018, “The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution.”

A paperless NHS could deliver costs savings of £4.4bn according to a study by PWC. The benefits of having a patient’s full records available, at the touch of a button, are obvious. The paperless agenda will create a safer and more efficient health and social care service.

We are one year away from that deadline and it is becoming increasingly clear that the NHS is unlikely to achieve it. Hunt by his own admission agrees we still have “a long way to go.”

However, there has been progress. From March this year, English pharmacies, NHS 111 and 60% of A&E departments will gain access to patients’ Summary Care Records. Patients are being encouraged to take charge of their own records. Inspired by the American ‘Blue Button’, a scheme has been introduced allowing patients to download their own data to their smart device.

Whilst some trusts are finding it difficult to adapt, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have identified technology as central to development and improvement. They are leading the way in the North West with their dedicated Health Informatics Service.

In 2013 St Helens and Knowsley was one of the first NHS trusts to move all patient records online. Since then they have been at the forefront of technological innovation in the NHS winning numerous awards including being shortlisted for an HSJ award that “recognises, celebrates and promotes the highest achievements in the NHS”.

Most recently St Helens and Knowsley went live with Patientrack. Patientrack has replaced a previously paper based system. It records vital signs, bedside, using a tablet. This enables real-time calculation of the EWEWS. The automation of the paper system has increased efficiency but most importantly, improved patient safety.

Although there are good news stories in the pursuit of a fully digital NHS, there is still a way to go. A new target, Paperless 2020 will hopefully meet better results. Meanwhile, Trusts, like St Helens and Knowsley will continue to quietly lead the way.