This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/06/patients-lives-risk-downright-dangerous-systems-matt-hancock/
NHS IT systems that are “downright dangerous” are risking the lives of patients, the new Health Secretary has warned.
Matt Hancock vowed to “bring the NHS into the 21st century” as he launched a ‘bonfire of the fax machines’ and waged war on outdated technology.
Writing in The Telegraph, he said the lack of basic systems to transfer vital patient information was hindering the efforts of medics, paramedics and nurses to save lives.
“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,” Mr Hancock warned, highlighting a recent tragic case.
Tamara Mills, 13, from Newcastle, died of a fatal asthma attack, despite having been seen by health professionals 47 times in different parts of the NHS.
But the lack of a clear record, showing repeated trips to Accident & Emergency departments, and increased reliance on medication, meant no-one detected that her condition was deteriorating before her death in 2015.
Mr Hancock, who has made technology one of his key priorities for the NHS, suggested the lack of basic interoperability between hospitals, GPs and ambulance services is costing lives.
Today the Health Secretary, appointed in July, will announce a £200m fund to assist NHS trusts in developing systems which work across the NHS, and ensure patient records can be safely accessed.
He will tell a conference that the generic technology available outside the NHS is “a million times better” than that in use by doctors and nurses.
And Mr Hancock is expected to announce that a new NHS app will begin being tested in five parts of the country by the end of this month, enabling patients to book GP appointments, access the NHS 111 service, view their medical records and record their organ donation preferences.
The scheme will be tested in Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire, and is due to be rolled out nationally by the end of this year.
Two weeks ago, the former culture secretary spent a night shift with crews from the London Ambulance Service, and staff at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
“I was struck during those 12 hours by the dedication and camaraderie of the staff, and the ability of the medics, paramedics and nurses to administer care with compassion and impart huge amounts of complex information while under pressure.
But perhaps more than these things, I was struck by how far we need to go to fix our stuttering IT systems,” he writes.
“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.”
“And don’t get me started on the fact the NHS remains one of the largest buyers of fax machines on the planet,” Mr Hancock continued, signalling frustration.
The Health Secretary said the NHS could not afford to shy away from reform, despite its chequered history with IT.
Today he will urge NHS managers at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, in Manchester to seize the opportunties of cutting edge technlogy, like artificial intelligence – and to get on with fixing the basics.
Later this year, he will unveil a 10 year plan for the NHS, setting out how a £20bn funding boost will be spent, having already said that technology, development of the NHS workforce and prevention of illness will be his major priorities.