NHS Gets £1bn Boost For Online Patient Records Push

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Hunt seeks to allay cost and privacy fears around NHS records project

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is pushing on with his plans to make online patient records nationally accessible, despite concerns over privacy and the failure of similar projects n the past, with  a £1 billion investment in the NHS.

The Department of Health announced £260 million of funding earlier this year, but has added another £240 million to get people’s medical data online so it can be accessed by any hospital, GP surgery or out of hours doctor. Local health and care bodies will match the funding they receive.

jeremy hunt bell 2Successful bidders are expected to be announced at the end of October.

Fears over a paperless NHS

It forms part of Hunt’s plans to create a paperless NHS by 2018. He is also looking to allow everyone to book GP appointments, access their records and order repeat prescriptions online by March 2015.

Some fear the drive to online patient records, which will likely involve the creation of a massive centralised database, will bring about the “end of medical privacy”.

Others are concerned about a repeat of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), which sought to do something similar to this latest project, but ended up failing to meet its objectives and wasting billions in taxpayers’ money.

But Hunt has sought to allay such concerns, saying that he is not implementing a “one-size-fits-all approach” as NPfIT did. He had previously promised those who did not want their personal data shared amongst health professionals, that they would be able to opt out.

“The public are rightly sceptical about NHS IT after the disastrous waste that happened in the past,” Hunt said.

“But we can’t let their failure hold patients back from seeing the benefits of the technology revolution that is transforming daily lives.

“Rather than imposing a clunky one-size-fits-all approach from Whitehall, this fund will empower local clinicians and health services to come together and find innovative solutions for their patients.”

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