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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories.

E-records programme hits delay

The NHS' plan to introduce an electronic patient record system could be delayed by up to nine months after software developer, IDX, called for more time to test the programme. The firm said that there had been slower than expected progress on the 'choose and book' option of the scheme that allows patients to book hospital outpatient appointments online. It is now expected that 'choose and book' will only cover 60 to 70 per cent of England by the end of the year instead of the whole country. Other work will continue in the meantime including the electronic transmission of prescriptions and the transfer of records between GPs.

Marketing unit created

The Department of Health is gearing up to help hospitals attract patients when the government's much-hyped patient choice policy is implemented by creating a central marketing intelligence unit. The unit will be headed by Department of Health director of strategy, Stephen O'Brien, and will teach NHS hospitals how 'to understand patients better, what choices patients make and how they will react to choice'. The Advertising Standards Authority has also been approached to discuss whether further regulation would be needed to allow hospitals to advertise their services.

Prescribing powers expand

Nurses may soon be able to write prescriptions for patients with long-term conditions under plans released by the Department of Health. Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, revealed that nurses with appropriate training would be able to prescribe drugs for any medical condition and from the full medical formulary. Nurses are currently only allowed to prescribe products from a list of 180. Pharmacists will also be able to prescribe, admit patients to hospital and manage case of patients with acute pain, Reid added.

Government prepares for flu pandemic

The government is to stockpile 14.6 million doses of Roche's flu drug, Tamiflu, in preparation for an ìinevitableî flu pandemic. The UK Influenza Contingency Plan released its plans in the event of a pandemic, including restricting travel to stop the virus spreading and banning large social gatherings, such as football matches and concerts. Experts have predicted that a flu pandemic could emerge from Asia if the bird flu spreading across the continent mutates with a human form of the virus.

30th September 2008

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