Health Secretary Alan Milburn recently announced an additional £60m investment to accelerate the Government's plan to revolutionise patient care using new information technology in the NHS.
This investment will mean that, using the secure NHS computer network, NHSnet, GPs will be able to receive diagnostic test results on-line as soon as they are processed by the laboratory. This not only cuts out days of delay while test results are posted but the advent of on-line booking means that in time GPs will be able to access results and book out-patient appointments while the patient is still at the practice.
Mr Milburn, speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference in Glasgow, said:
"The National Plan will make investments in NHS infrastructure and NHS staff our twin resource priorities. The two go hand in hand. Modern healthcare depends on modern IT systems.
"Today I am allocating £ 60m of the extra Budget money to accelerate the use of new information technology in the NHS. This is on top of the extra £79m included in Health Authority allocations.
"This investment will speed up access to services and more convenient care for patients. By next March 95 per cent of all GPs will be on the NHSnet, connecting GPs and hospitals on-line. The remainder will be connected by the following March."
NHSnet will provide all GPs with their own email and easy access to a wealth of online health information and electronic test results through their own computers at their own desks. This means that GPs will have access to patients test results on-line as soon as they have been processed by the lab. This is good news for patients as this removes the two or three day delay while test results are mailed to GP surgeries and allows them to respond to their patients treatment needs more quickly.
Pilot projects will be set up to allow GPs to send prescriptions electronically to their local pharmacy. This means that patients will no longer have to visit their surgery to pick up a repeat prescription.
National Electronic Library for Health will benefit from the purchase of material to ensure that professionals, and patients, benefit from access to world-leading information about research in health and healthcare.