Health secretary to put technology at heart of better care fund

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged to improve the technology used by the NHS, claiming it will play a “key” part in the Better Care Fund.

Speaking at last week’s National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCAS) 2014, Hunt announced the budget for the fund has risen from £3.8bn to £5.8bn.

The Better Care Fund was announced by the government in June 2013 as a well of transforming integrated health and social care.

“A strong economy and integrated community care are the first two pillars of our plan,” claimed Hunt last week.

“The third pillar involves being much better at embracing innovation and efficiency,” he added.

During his speech, the Health Secretary noted that 75 per cent of people in the UK access the Internet every day and 50 per cent bank online, yet the Health Service employs people who input details from hospital faxes onto electronic health records in GP surgeries.

“IT investment has a chequered history in the NHS but in the last two years we have made some good progress,” Hunt claimed.

“By the end of the year, a third of A and E departments will be able to access summary care records, as will one third of 111 call centres and one third of ambulance services. This will then be rolled out to everyone,” he added.

Electronic patient records at heart of integrated care

Hunt noted that electronic record sharing plays a key part in the Better Care programme and explained to delegates what he feels are the key benefits of this.

“Shouldn’t residential care homes be able, with a patient’s consent, to update someone’s condition onto their GP record on a daily basis,” he claimed.

“We’ve introduced named GPs for all over 75s this year, rolling out to everyone next year, but we could make this much more meaningful if the responsible GP was able to check on someone’s condition on a daily basis just by looking at their record on a computer,” the Secretary added.

More to innovation than electronic records

However, Hunt made sure to let the audience know that “innovation is not just about electronic medical records.”

“One of the most common criticisms of the NHS is that it is a slow adopter of technology, even when adopting such technology earlier would save overall costs,” he claimed.

“This tends to be because we look at costs in financial silos so people are reluctant to invest in costs upstream that benefit another part of the system downstream,” he added.

The Health Secretary wants clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local authorities to work together and collect real-time NHS and social care cost information, claiming that only this will inspire commissioners to invest properly in “preventative innovations.”

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