Jeremy Hunt has admitted that ambitions to have the NHS paperless by 2018 are unrealistic.
Speaking in front of the House of Lords the health secretary commented on a previous statement made in 2013, in which he said he wanted the NHS to be paperless by 2018.
In the evidence session Hunt said: “I am confident that it is being properly addressed and planned for, and I was very careful to secure the funding necessary for that in the spending review a year ago. I have made big, bold statements about it. I perhaps rather bravely said I wanted the NHS to be paperless by 2018 in my first few months as Health Secretary, and I am quite relieved that most people seem to have forgotten that I made that promise.”
Hunt went on to comment on the state of hospital IT systems around the country, saying: “There is definitely lots to do. We are weak at the moment on hospital IT systems. Professor Bob Wachter of the University of California, San Francisco, came over and looked at the state of hospital IT systems, and has given us some very good advice. He does not think 2018 will be possible, it will not surprise you to hear, but he has given us some very good advice about how we can get our hospitals to world-class levels over the course of the next five years.”
IT systems seems to be highlighted as a particular concern for Hunt. He regarded the UK’s hospital IT systems as reasonable, but the report also stated that they are not world-class. On the topic Hunt said: “I think we have a long way to go when it comes to hospital IT systems.”
Hunt also agreed that the failure to optimise the NHS to different domains of technology, such as digitisation, health informatics and health records, could jeopardise the long-term sustainability of the NHS.
Health records, he stated, would be available to everyone online through what is called the Blue Button scheme. He stated: “At the moment you can access your own record if you go to your GP surgery and get a code, so you can go online and access your record, but from next year we will have a system where you can go online and identify yourself online without having to go to your GP surgery. That will be very significant, because people will be able to download their record on their phone.”