U.K. Announces National Health Service Information Sharing Strategy

Press Release | National Health Service | May 21, 2012

Using information and technology to put people in greater control of their health and care is at the heart of the Government’s strategy – The power of information – announced today.

More data about NHS and social care services is being published to support the public in making meaningful choices based on things like success rates for treatment and infection control. Building on open data already published on NHS Choices and bringing together health and care information from across the internet, a new online portal will give people access to trusted health and care information, wherever it was created.

The Information Strategy for health and care also opens up information to consumer groups and IT specialists outside the NHS so they can produce tailored websites and apps for different patients.  By providing NHS and care information to creative experts the government expects to see new products and services being offered to patients.

Further key elements of ‘The power of information’ will make using the NHS easier for patients by providing online access to many of the most frustrating interactions people have with the NHS such as booking appointments.

By 2015 patients will be able to book their GP appointments online, helping to end the ‘8am rush’ for booking GP appointments on the phone.

Online services will include:

  • Repeat prescriptions will be available online, speeding them up and increasing convenience for the millions of patients who need them.
  • Test results will be made available online, ending the wait for a letter in the post.
  • Patients’ medical records will be available securely to them online so they can be viewed and referred to easily by patients and shared with anyone they choose to. By 2015 all patients registered with a GP in England will be able to see their medical records online.
  • And in future it will be possible to contact GP surgeries by email, ending the hassle of calling switchboards and trying to find the right person to speak to. So routine tasks that GPs have to do at the moment – like issuing sick notes – will be a lot faster and easier for everyone in future.

The momentum for these changes will be locally-led and include working closely with the voluntary sector to support the needs of those who might not be able to use the web, or have a smartphone or a computer.  This involves a full commitment to preserving face-to-face contact with health and care professionals as an essential, core part of care, while simplifying services for most people.

Rather than telling nurses and doctors what IT they need to improve care, the Government is supporting local doctors, and nurses to decide what they need and to use imaginative solutions – such as remote monitoring of patients with long term conditions – to help them manage their health.

The Royal College of GPs has agreed to work in partnership with patient groups and other professional organisations to lead work on supporting people to access services and their records electronically.  From 2013 the NHS Commissioning Board will be asked to work with the RCGP to promote this work.  As the case studies in the print and online versions amply demonstrate, successful innovation is being driven at a local level, led by nurses and doctors who see how technology can improve care.

All patients will be able to give immediate feedback, in ways that are convenient to them, at any encounter they have with a health or care service.  This will drive improvements in quality, as well as making services more responsive to the people using them.

In addition, the Government’s ambition is for all care homes to use barcode medication in the future. Barcoding medication greatly improves patient safety by reducing the number of prescribing errors, which can sometimes be fatal. A number of pilots are being established to determine how this can best happen.

And midwives’ time will be freed up to allow them to focus on caring for mothers–to-be. The Department will work to support the NHS to ensure that maternity services benefit from the latest technology. For example, in Portsmouth midwives now use low cost digital pens to write up case notes – this information is then automatically uploaded onto the patient’s electronic record. This has halved their paper work and the patient’s hospital gets the latest information instantly.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Our health and care reforms are about making life easier for people.  If people are going to be able to choose, with their doctor, which hospital will provide them with the best care they will need all the latest information.  Our plans will ensure that they get this from their doctors as well as online from websites and cutting edge apps.  By pushing ahead with our information revolution we will ensure that every NHS patient will be able to say that ‘no decision about me was made without me’.

“The internet has revolutionised how people shop, bank and travel, and for too long health and care services have not been part of that revolution.  Our strategy proposals will ensure that these services will become easier to understand, easier to access and will drive up standards of care.

“It’s time to make patient-power a reality and take the hassle out of using the health service.”

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, said: “Information is critical to the transformation of the NHS.  To get the best outcomes for our patients we must enable them to make informed decisions about their care and wellbeing – be that choice of service or how to best manage their own health.

“Alongside that, publication of information and data, openness and transparency will support us to drive improvement and innovation across the country, as everyone will be able to see for themselves the outcomes achieved for our patients.

“This commitment to the Information Strategy and the adoption of new technologies and ways of working are the first steps in a genuine cultural shift in the NHS that will enable the service to work at its most efficient and give patients real power and choice.”