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Hunt sets high bar for digital service roll-out by 2018

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has this week told trusts across the country that he expects a number of services online to be available to patients in app form by the end of next year.

By 2018 – the year the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday – Hunt expects services including NHS 111, healthcare records and GP appointment booking to be available to all patients online.

Other services the health secretary said he wanted to see rolled out online by next year include organ donation preferences, data sharing preferences and support for people suffering from long-term conditions.

Speaking to delegates at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester yesterday, Hunt also described the next 10 years as “the decade of patient power” and told the audience that “technology must always be our servant, not our master”.

Pilot schemes are already underway for a number of these schemes, with ongoing evaluation before a potential national roll-out already progressing.

“If the NHS is going to be the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world we need to do technology better,” the secretary of state said in his speech. “So today I am setting seven challenges which, if we achieve them, will make the NHS a world-beater in the care of people with long term conditions.

“People should be able to access their own medical records 24/7, show their full medical history to anyone they choose and book basic services like GP appointments or repeat prescriptions online.

“I do not underestimate the challenge of getting there – but if we do it will be the best possible 70th birthday present from the NHS to its patients.”

Hunt’s speech also touched on areas where the NHS needed to urgently alter its approach to digital, as he commented on the cyber-attack that hit trusts in May, arguing that “we have work to do to reassure people their data is safe with us”.

Pilots for services like online trials of support for long-term conditions have already been successful, with apps such as MyCOPD being used to help patients manage their conditions with less reliance on GP and hospital appointments.

In his speech, the health secretary also announced a further wave of global digital exemplars called ‘the fast followers’, which will be given £160m of funding to drive digital innovation.

Around £21m of new matched funding for up to seven mental health ‘Fast Followers’ will also be made available, creating fresh investment of up to £42m.

Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, said in response to Hunt’s announcements: “The vision set out by the secretary of state directly addresses what patients and the broader public have told Healthwatch they want from a modern NHS, and is a huge step forward in ensuring all of us get the sort of integrated service we have come to expect in many other areas of life.”

Top Image: Neil Hall and PA Wire

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