The National Health Service could be paperless by as soon as 2015, according to the NHS Commissioning Board's head of informatics Tim Kelsey.
Kelsey, who is National Director for Patients & Information at the NHS Commissioning Board Authority, told delegates at the Healthcare Efficiency through Technology Expo last week that the government will enshrine the commitment to a paperless health service within the board's mandate, and that he is pushing for 2015 for a switch to digital communication.
Later this month, ministers are expected to unveil a final mandate for the new NHSCB, laying out exactly what it is expected to achieve when it takes over responsibility for management of the NHS from the government in April 2014.
While conceding that his personal target of 2015 is ambitious, Kelsey stressed that the eradication of paper would help to prevent the loss of records and information and thereby create a "safer system" for patients.
The call for electronic patient records has been growing for some time, and just last week new health secretary Jeremy Hunt, in his first major address, indicated at the Conservatives conference that there will be a greater focus on bringing the NHS up to speed with modern technology.
Kicking Labour for the recent NHS IT "disaster", he said the government would shy away from "top-down, bureaucratic procurement" while gunning for "more information, faster response and the better service from technology".
In a further illustration of the government's commitment to pouring cutting-edge technology into the health service, it was also announced this month that a £100 million fund pot will be offered up to the NHS to borrow money for equipping nurses with new tools, such as digital pens and other devices designed to cut down on admin and increase time with patients.
However, in a comment posted on publicservice.co.uk's website, it was argued that while there are some positives to the scheme, it is far from the "golden wonder" being portrayed.
For one, while the loan covers the initial cost of equipment, it doesn't help with the huge rise in costs relating to IT support for these new devices/systems, it was argued.