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Health secretary announces £200m NHS IT system overhaul

Written by Hannah McGrath
06/09/2018

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is to announce a £200million fund to overhaul the NHS’s IT systems which he called “downright dangerous.”

Writing in the Daily Telegraph ahead of speech at the Health and Care Innovation Expo today, Hancock detailed plans for a wide-ranging “tech transformation” for NHS Trusts and the next stage in the rollout of the NHS app, which will aim to transfer more control to patients.

“The fact that your hospital can’t see your GP record, or that you as a patient don’t have control over your own data, or that even within the same hospital different departments have to write down basic details is expensive, frustrating for staff, and risks patient safety,” he wrote.

Hancock, who was the first UK politician to launch his own app and digital and culture secretary, is expected to make the case for Britain as a “global leader” in the creation of AI technologies and outline hopes for the NHS to make use of health technologies to improve outcomes and save lives.

“A world where we ask an ill patient over and over for their past medical history is a problem. A world in which a hospital can’t pull up a patient’s GP record to see the reasons for stopping and starting medications is downright dangerous”,he added.

Hancock also took aim at the “stuttering” IT systems he witnessed while spending a night shift with the London Ambulance service.

“For years we’ve spoken about the importance of national interoperability standards, meaning systems which can talk to each other, but I still saw staff resorting to pen and paper because their own networks simply couldn’t communicate”, he wrote.

He also voiced his frustration at the fact the NHS “remains one of the largest buyers of fax machines on the planet” and set out plans for the £200million fund to support the development of global digital exemplars.

He is also expected to announce the roll-out of a new NHS app functionality enabling patients to book GP appointments, arrange for repeat prescriptions, and receive urgent advice from the NHS’s 111 service.

He is expected to tell delegates at the Health and Care Innovation Expo: “Now is the moment to put the failures of the past behind us, and set our sights on the NHS being the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology to improve our health, make our lives easier, and make money go further, harnessing the amazing explosion of innovation that the connection of billions of minds through digital technology has brought to this world.”

The announcement comes ahead of the launch of a 10 year plan for the NHS, which will outline how an extra £20billion funding boost announced earlier this year will be spent.

Lord O’Shaughnessy, health minister, will also announce today a new code of conduct for artificial intelligence (AI) and other data-driven technologies, to ensure that technology companies providing services to the NHS maintain high standards of compliance with data protection regulation and offer value for public money.

The code has ten principles setting out how the NHS will facilitate suppliers developing solutions for healthcare challenges including dementia, obesity and cancer.

Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “Artificial intelligence and machine learning is a field that is moving at lightning speed and has tremendous potential across the healthcare sector.

"That is why I am pleased to announce that we have today launched our initial technology partnerships Code of Conduct – 10 principles which set out the rules of engagement between industry and the health and care system”, he added.