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Hunt resurrects NHS national IT initiative

23 November 2012

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has resurrected hopes for a national programme for IT in the NHS after praising Labour’s failed objective in creating a single digital patient record during the last government.

Speaking at the NHS Alliance annual conference in Bournemouth yesterday (22 November), Hunt called for health records to be shared and embraced across all organisations in the health service.

This is despite the £12bn Connecting for Health (CfH) Labour government initiative being axed by the government last year, after it was found the national programme “had not and could not deliver to its original intent”.

“It is absolutely crazy that an ambulance can answer a 999 call and arrive at someone’s house and not know they have mild dementia, had a couple of falls last year and a heart bypass a number of years ago,” said Hunt.

“Embracing that technology revolution is a challenge because the last government tried and found it difficult to put it politely but I do want to say this, [Labour’s] objective in CfH was absolutely right and we have to have a single digital record that can follow people around the health system.

“Although my civil servants say it is a very brave minister that says they want to resurrect the technology revolution in the NHS, we have to do this. The argument I need to make to the NHS is this will save you time and costs.”

Also in his speech, Hunt admitted GPs are “overstretched” and praised GPs for working 13-hour days, nurses going the extra mile and managers concentrating on patient care and experience.

He noted the increasing extra burden on primary care with 1.5m more diagnostic tests happening in primary care every year since the last general election in May 2010 and 3.7% more patient activity in general practice.

He also laid out the four main priorities he will “focus relentlessly” on during his time in office – a time he realised was not going to be long – which are: dementia care; improving mortality for killer diseases; the technology revolution; and ensuring the quality of care is prioritised in the same way as the quality of treatment.