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Hunt to promote new IT to cut costs

The NHS must use new technology better to slash costs, Jeremy Hunt will say as part of a package of efficiency measures needed to prevent it running out of cash.

A new strategy document published by health and social care chiefs promises to give all patients access to their full medical records within four years.

It proposes the introduction of "kitemark" approved smartphone apps to enable people to look and comment on their personal data amid fears over security.

And by 2020, the details of those who consent will be shared right across the health system, cutting duplication after a study found 66% of junior clinician's time was spent finding, accessing and updating patient notes.

The Health Secretary will use a speech to push innovative uses of IT as one of 10 ways to cut costs by between £7 billion and £10 billion a year.

A five-year blueprint published last month by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens claimed annual savings of £22 billion could be achieved by 2020.

"If we are to be truly financially sustainable we need to rethink how we spend money in a much more fundamental way," Mr Hunt will tell the King's Fund think-tank.

"More personalised, responsive and joined-up care becomes possible with shared electronic health records.

"Technology can also unlock personalised cures for illnesses … it is a revolution in prevention."

Other potential cost-savings promoted by Mr Hunt include cutting the £2.5 million a year cost of "avoidable harm", £551 million in prescription errors, £1.5 billion of procurement costs, £2.5 billion spent on agency staff and £150 million on drugs that are never taken.

Selling off surplus land and facilities - valued at £1.5 billion in the capital alone - reducing administrative costs and recuperating £500 million a year from migrants and visitors for NHS care are also on his hit list.

Among innovations to have caught his imagination is simple one-button access to advice for the elderly through their televisions which is said to have reduced emergency admissions at one Yorkshire hospital by 14%.

Detailed proposals for IT-led efficiencies are being set out by the National Information Board, chaired by NHS England's national director for patients and information, Tim Kelsey.

It says patients will be able to see their GP records online by 2015 with all data held by hospitals, community, mental health and social care services available by 2018.

Visits to the GP and hospital, prescriptions, test results, and adverse reactions and allergies to drugs will be online - where patients will be able to record their own thoughts and preferences.

The current "red book" system of child health records will also be digitised.

Mr Kelsey said: "This will put an end to worrying about leaving your child's information at home when going for a review, vaccination, or emergency treatment.

"We must embrace modern technology to help us lead healthier lives, and if we want - to take more control when we are ill.

"Our ambition is to make the NHS a digital pioneer for our patients and citizens."

All NHS-funded care services are expected to have digital and interoperable systems by 2020.

Chief Nursing Officer for England J ane Cummings said: "The practical application of technology on the front line will allow our nurses and other health workers to concentrate on what is important - giving meaningful and compassionate care to patients.

"Being smarter with data and technology has the potential to make a world of difference to patients, while ensuring best value for the taxpayer."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "The hypocrisy of Jeremy Hunt gets worse by the day.

"He slashed nurse training places and left hospitals at the mercy of expensive agencies and overseas recruitment.

"He should put his own house in order first.

"David Cameron spent more than £1 billion on pay-offs for NHS managers during the re-organisation - a scandalous waste of money when patient care is heading backwards."

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