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NHS Digital: Rollout of electronic discharge summaries will ‘save GP practices time’

by Awil Mohamoud
26 August 2020

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An electronic discharge summaries system that saves GP practices time in processing and clarifying patient information from hospitals is soon to be rolled out, NHS Digital has said. 

Using the technology, hospitals across England will be able to send ‘secure and standardised’ discharge summaries and outpatient attendance information electronically to GP systems, which will prevent GPs having to manually log information from patient discharge letters. 

NHS Digital said the system will also allow GPs to track when a patient has been prescribed a new medication, and will notify hospitals when messages, sent through the Message Exchange for Social Care and Health (MESH), have been delivered and actioned.

It follows a pilot at Dorset County Hospital, where over 4,000 messages were sent to four local volunteer GP practices, including outpatient letters, emergency care and inpatient discharge summaries.

The new system will also mean ‘GPs and hospitals benefit from a reduction in paper use, postal costs and time re-typing information into their computer system,’ NHS Digital said.

‘Improving transfers of care’

The NHS Long Term Plan set a target for all providers to move away from a ‘largely paper-based’ model and to reach ‘a core level of digitisation by 2024’. 

Dr John Parry, clinical director of TPP, a healthcare technology company involved in the pilot, said: ‘Enabling key information from messages to be extracted automatically will make the process faster, less prone to error, and ultimately safer for patients.

‘The interoperability we have achieved here is an essential step in the right direction to make all communication into general practice digital.’

Andrew Meyer, director of platforms at NHS Digital, said: ‘Improving transfers of care between hospitals and GP practices is a vitally important step to enhance patient care across different health and care settings.

‘We have come a long way from the early days of sending discharge information through the post, fax and even email to now providing a standardised and reliable service.’

He added: ‘We aim to work with other trusts and GP suppliers to ensure that all GP computer systems can send and receive transfer of care messages in the near future.’