‘Radical approach needed to technology in NHS’

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The NHS must use new technology better to slash costs, Jeremy Hunt has said, as part of efficiency measures needed to stop it running out of cash.

A new strategy document published by health and social care chiefs promises to give all patients access to their full medical records within four years.

It proposes the introduction of “kitemark” approved smartphone apps so people can look and comment on their personal data amid fears over security.

By 2020, the details of those who consent will be shared right across the health system, cutting duplication after a study found 66 per cent of junior clinicians’ time was spent finding, accessing and updating patient notes.

The Health Secretary yesterday used a speech to push innovative uses of IT as one of 10 ways to cut costs by between £7 billion and £10 billion a year.

A five-year blueprint published last month by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens claimed annual savings of £22 billion could be achieved by 2020.

“If we are to be truly financially sustainable we need to rethink how we spend money in a much more fundamental way,” Mr Hunt told the King’s Fund think-tank. More personalised, responsive and joined-up care becomes possible with shared electronic health records.

“Technology can also unlock personalised cures for illnesses ... it is a revolution in prevention.”

Other potential cost-savings promoted by Mr Hunt include cutting the £2.5 million a year cost of “avoidable harm”, £551 million in prescription errors, £1.5 billion of procurement costs, £2.5 billion spent on agency staff and £150 million on drugs that are never taken.

Selling off surplus land and facilities - valued at £1.5 billion in the capital alone - reducing administrative costs and recuperating £500 million a year from migrants and visitors for NHS care are also on his hit list.

Among innovations include a simple one-button access to advice for the elderly through their televisions which is said to have reduced emergency admissions at one Yorkshire hospital.