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NHS to receive £260m for patient safety technology

Majority of hospital fund will be used for electronic prescribing

The UK has set up a new £260m fund to help NHS hospitals use technology to improve patient safety.

It will be primarily used for electronic prescribing systems that send computer generated prescriptions, linked to barcodes unique to each patient, from doctors to pharmacies.

The fund will also be used for creating electronic systems, linked to patient records, that talk to each other right across hospitals.

The government said it was setting up the technology fund as part of its response to the final Francis report, which found shocking cases of patient suffering and neglect at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust found that “transparency and patient safety would be greatly enhanced by the introduction of user friendly electronic patient record systems”.

“Patients should be able to in real time, or retrospectively, read and comment on their records. The system should be designed to include prompts and defaults to contribute to effective patient care and safety.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “If we are to improve patient safety then we must allow the NHS to have access to the best tools available and this fund will help them achieve that.”

Last year, at least 11 people died in the NHS because they were given the wrong prescriptions and errors in prescriptions are present in as many as 8 per cent of hospital prescriptions.

Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England, said: “Expanding the use of electronic prescribing of medications in hospitals will help improve safety, save lives and save taxpayer's money.”

The fund will be used by hospitals to replace paper-based systems for patient notes and prescriptions and is, the government said, a critical stepping-stone in helping the NHS go digital by 2018.

But despite its expectation that most of the new fund will be used for electronic prescribing, the government gave two electronic patient record systems already in place as examples of how technology could improve patient safety.

At St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust patient records are put online for doctors and nurses to easily view, while at the New Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham an online portal allows patients to view and update their own medical records so doctors can get instant, real-time updates.

NHS hospitals can bid for money from the new fund, but in order to be eligible, projects must demonstrate that these will lead to better, safer care.

20th May 2013

From: Healthcare

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