The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has released its new ‘tech manifesto’, claiming that a robust and joined-up IT system across the NHS needs to be prioritised before a technological ‘revolution’ in patient care can truly happen.
If nothing changes, up to 80% of GP practices could soon be using outdated IT systems that are not suitable for the demands of future care - with some practices still reliant on old fashioned fax machines that health and social care secretary for England, Matt Hancock, has said he wants to outlaw.
The College is calling on the health and social care secretary to urgently ensure all practices are equipped with systems and facilities that are fit for the future, including modern, digitally-enabled premises with fully interoperable IT systems for all GP practices, access to secure high-speed broadband facilities and access to a single shared electronic patient record which documents patient interactions throughout the NHS.
Its chair, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “GPs have always embraced new technology. General practice was the first NHS sector to have electronic prescribing and electronic patient records so we know how beneficial new technology can be and we recognise its huge potential to help our patients.
“GPs want the latest, cutting-edge tech at our disposal but we need the basics to work first. That means everything from making sure that our computers don’t crash while issuing a prescription, to making sure our systems talk to those in all hospitals so that we can improve the care and experience that our patients receive throughout the NHS.
“We want the NHS to be a world leader in technology, and we are ready for a new wave of exciting opportunities which have the potential to revolutionise patient care, but a lot of work is needed before that can happen, and we need to ensure sure that these opportunities are embraced safely and sustainably with GPs at the centre of changes.”
The UK currently lags behind its European neighbours, such as Finland and Estonia, that have already implemented a shared electronic patient record in their health systems.