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NHS IT systems ‘costing lives’: Hancock unveils £200m digital fund and five app trials

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has described the NHS’s IT systems as “stuttering,” arguing that they are putting lives at risk and are in need of a serious upgrade.

“It’s time to bring the health and care system into the 21st century,” Hancock vowed in his article for The Telegraph as he announced a new £200m fund for NHS trusts to bid for in order to help them with IT systems transformation.

He is also set to announce trials for a new NHS app which will allow patients to book GP appointments, access the 111 service, view medical records, and record organ donation preferences.

The app is set to be tested across Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire, with a national roll-out due by the end of the year.

One thing Hancock highlighted was that the inability to transfer patient data between, for example, a patient’s GP and their hospital, was hindering clinicians’ ability to save lives.

He also mentioned that the NHS is still one of the largest buyers of fax machines in the world and that, despite its “chequered history” with IT, opportunities from technologies such as artificial intelligence means we are now capable of a serious digital overhaul.

Hancock used the case of 13-year-old Tamara Hill as an example of the NHS’s outdated IT. She tragically died of a fatal asthma attack after being seen by 47 different medical professionals.

“Linking the records of her visits and making them available for the clinicians she saw could have allowed her doctors to better understand her medical history, to treat her differently and perhaps prevent her death,” he wrote.

The health secretary concluded his article by noting that “technology has unleashed huge improvements in the rest of our lives. Done right, with the consent of patients, it can improve our NHS, too.”

The £200m IT transformation fund and new NHS app trials are set to be formally announced at the Health and Care Expo conference in Manchester later today. You can follow live updates from the event through the day on NHE’s Twitter.

Top image: Kirsty O'Connor


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