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NHS computer review launched amidst £4.2bn paperless push

Neil Merrett Published 08 February 2016

Professor Bob Wachter will report to government in June on findings as Jeremy Hunt today reaffirms investment aims looking at health apps and online service development


A review into the use of computer systems across the NHS has been launched in order to set out areas to improve current technology rollout plans as part of a wider £4.2bn government investment strategy to create a paperless, digital health service.

The launch of the review, which is to be led by University of California Professor Bob Wachter and scheduled to report to the government in June, comes after the release of a separate study by Lord Carter of Coles last week that called for an end to "unwarranted" variation in healthcare procurement.

Both reviews reflect wider digital ambitions by the Department of Health, which this week set out a breakdown of the next stage for ICT transformation within the NHS.

However, the proposed £4.2bn valued programme is still in the process of being finalised by the department.

Under the title 'Making IT work: harnessing the power of health IT to improve care in England', Professor Wachter's review is expected to set out recommendations for improvements based around the existing work of clinicians and trusts in adopting and using digital systems. It will also look to relevant comparisons from US healthcare.

According to the terms of reference, Wachter and the National Advisory Board will also look at the impact and potential for digital systems on clinical workflow and building on the relationship between patients and clinicians. It will also look at how trusts understand commissioning Health IT systems.

Under the review process, a committee known as the National Advisory Group on Health Information Technology in England will be formed to bring together medical and academic experts from both the UK and US to consider potential recommendations.

These experts will include Ann Slee, ePrescribing lead for Integrated Digital Care Record and Digital Medicines Strategy with NHS England, Julia Adler-Milstein, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and Tim Kelsey, former national director for patients and information at NHS England. Kelsey is Australia-bound to work with private sector company Telstra Health.

Sir David Dalton, chief executive at the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Christine Sinsky, a general internist in Dubuque, Iowa, who also serves on the American Medical Association's Advisory Panel on Physician Satisfaction and 'patient advocate' Dave deBronkart will also be included in the group.

"The review will inform the English health and care system's approach to the further implementation of IT in healthcare, in particular the use of electronic health records and other digital systems in the acute sector, to achieve the ambition of a paper free health and care system by 2020," said the department.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has also today set out the next steps in his strategy to formalise £4.2bn in spending to create an integrated, paperless NHS through a number of 'high level commitments'.

These commitments include:

- £1.8bn in spending to create a paper-free NHS that can allow health information systems to work closer together, while moving away from technologies like fax machines
- £1bn on infrastructure, cyber security and data consent
- £750m to transform out of hospital care
- £400m to support a digital NHS through the development of the NHS.UK service, development of healthcare apps and free Wi-Fi
- £250m on data outcomes and research

Although full details of the funding plans are still being finalised between the Department of Health and NHS England, Hunt claimed the financing was a vital part of trying to ensure better patient outcomes.

"On the back of a strong economy, and because of our belief in the NHS and its values, we are investing more than £4bn across the health system to ease pressure on the frontline and create stronger partnerships between doctor and patient," he said.

As part of the investment plans, Hunt also reaffirmed previous commitments for the development of accredited apps for patients and tools designed to provide GPs with quicker analysis and health trends.

Alongside partnerships with Google, Apple and Microsoft designed to support mobile access to apps, the health secretary said aims for at least 10% of patients to be using online systems to access GP services by March 2017 would be an early benchmark of the government's efforts.

Related articles:

Carter struck by trusts' "immaturity" in using technology for procurement

Surprise £450m GDS budget lights up Spending Review

Health department yet to define scope of NHS digital review

Health secretary eyes apps and data security among innovation aims

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