Powerful Patients, Paperless Systems

This year the NHS celebrates its 70th anniversary, and its operating systems are in need of an upgrade.

A major new report by Havant MP Alan Mak, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, proposes ambitious reforms to the NHS, shedding paper, pagers and fax machines to create a fully digital NHS that will help patients take control of their treatment. 

These proposals will position the NHS to take full advantage of the digital age and technological change – and save substantial amounts of money. And all such savings, says Mak, should be reinvested in frontline services, better equipping healthcare professionals to save lives.

The report proposes the Department of Health and Social Care should drive a fundamental shift in behaviour by working closely with suppliers and NHS partners to achieve three key targets over the next decade: 

•           To move the NHS from paper-first to digital-first. The aim should be to ensure    that 100 per cent of all interactions within the health service are digitally driven by 2028.

•           To build a flourishing ecosystem of apps and innovation within and around the NHS, to better serve patients and to put them in control.

•           To ensure that savings from automation and innovation are ploughed back into frontline services, and that R&D and technology training see their budgets rise at least in line with NHS spending. 

This will strengthen the NHS by saving money, fostering innovation, empowering patients and supporting doctors. The report puts forward 10 key recommendations* which the Department should report on annually to Parliament. These include technology training for medical staff, the creation of “NHS Worldwide” to sell its most innovative technology worldwide, and greatly improved use of data and apps to empower patients and improve their care. Taken together, these would create a system where digitisation was the norm not the exception. 

Jeremy Hunt, who wrote the Foreword to the report and will be launching it at a reception on May 1, welcomed the report, saying:  

“Alan Mak’s excellent report makes a convincing case for a digital-first NHS where paper, pagers and fax machines are a thing of the past. I share his vision for a data-driven health service that can truly deliver patient power.”

 “I’ve set out a plan for the NHS to roll out new digital platforms, including a new app allowing patients to access their individual medical record, book an appointment and get their repeat prescription online.

 “But as Alan’s report makes clear, there is still more the NHS can do to make itself ready for the healthcare revolution. We should all be committed to ensuring the NHS is ready to seize the advantages of a digital age.”

Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the House of Commons Health & Social Care Select Committee, also welcomed the report, saying:

 “Alan Mak MP’s report sets out so many of the areas in which the NHS, its workforce and, most importantly, patients, could benefit from a radical upgrade in the use of IT. The challenge is not only to invest in research and development but to make sure that new technologies are effectively rolled out. IT can empower patients in so many ways as well as saving time and money across a fully connected & paperless system.”

Alan Mak MP said:

“We all want to see the NHS deliver a safe, world-class service. I hope the policy proposals in this report for empowering patients and prioritising paperless, digital systems will not only stimulate further debate within the Conservative Party, but also act as a blueprint for action.” 

To strengthen and renew the NHS, we need to embrace new technology to empower patients, putting them at the heart of a reformed, digital-first NHS. Patients with the latest information about their health at their fingertips – from personal test results to reviews of their local hospital – can make more informed choices and exert greater control over their treatment.”

“Paper, pagers and fax machines must become a thing of the past, and the NHS must be fully digital by 2028 so patients benefit from the new technologies such as artificial intelligence, apps and robotics that are already transforming our society.”

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