Health records to move online by 2015
NHS mandate calls for online access to patient records, booking GP appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions
The first ever NHS mandate has set out a commitment that, by March 2015, 'everyone who wishes will be able to get online access to their own health records held by their GP'.
The NHS Commissioning Board will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of electronic records and setting national information standards to support integration.
The mandate also commits the Board to ensuring that 'everyone will be able to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online'.
The 28-page mandate document, which sets out what every patient in England can expect from GPs, hospitals and the wider NHS, says that 'clear plans will be in place to enable the secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held, so there is as complete a record as possible of the care someone receives'.
The document promises that 'significant progress will be made towards three million people with long-term [health] conditions being able to benefit from telehealth and telecare by 2017; supporting them to manage and monitor their condition at home, and reducing the need for avoidable visits to their GP practice and hospital'.
The mandate says that by March 2015, 'clear plans will be in place for those records to be able to follow individuals, with their consent, to any part of the NHS or social care system'.
The mandate also commits the NHS Commissioning Board to ensuring that 'everyone will be able to have secure electronic communication with their GP practice, with the option of e-consultations becoming much more widely available'.
According to the mandate, 'in a digital age, it is crucial that the NHS not only operates at the limits of medical science, but increasingly at the forefront of new technologies. The Board's [NHS Commissioning Board] objective is to achieve increase in the use of technology to help people manage their health and care'.
Speaking at the Department of Health, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hailed the government mandate to the NHS, saying "this is a very historic moment". He said that the NHS is shifting to focus on the specific outcomes desired by patients rather than "ministers performance-managing the NHS from Whitehall".
Hunt said that the government was making a break with "Labour's era of failed IT projects". He called on the NHS to "embrace the technology revolution", adding that it has the potential to free up huge amounts of time in GP surgeries.
He said that there will be "no national IT contract and no specification as to how this is implemented". However, he added, "we do specify outcomes. We want a single digital record for each patient...how that happens will be different in different parts of the country".
Hunt said that Tim Kelsey (the NHS Commissioning Board's first national director of patients and information) will "make sure systems have inter-operability so that records can follow patients if they move".
Speaking at the same event, Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, announced that there are plans to set up an online 'customer platform' where people will be able to input their postcode and access data on NHS outcomes in their local area.
Nicholson said that NHS Choices had been successful but that expectations were now very different. The new website, which he described as a "daughter to NHS Choices", will be designed "to make sure people can get the information they need".
However, Hunt warned that it will probably take the full two years (until March 2015) to fully set up the website.