UK government launches new attempt at a paperless NHS service

In a recent speech to the Policy Exchange, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that patients should have compatible digital records so their health information can follow them around the health and social care system.

A ‘paperless NHS’ is believed to that would be more convenient for patients, and help doctors to provide faster diagnoses.

“The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution,” Hunt said, as the government has set aside more than £4 billion to meet the 2018 ‘paperless’ deadline.

Technology goals for the healthcare sector

On the way towards the 2018 goal, the Health Secretary wants to see:

  • By March 2015 – everyone who wishes will be able to get online access to their own health records held by their GP.
  • Adoption of paperless referrals – instead of sending a letter to the hospital when referring a patient to hospital, the GP can send an email instead.
  • Clear plans in place to enable secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held, so there is as complete a record as possible of the care someone receives.
  • Clear plans in place for those records to be able to follow individuals, with their consent, to any part of the NHS or social care system.
  • By April 2018 – digital information to be fully available across NHS and social care services, barring any individual opt outs.

Billions to be spend on cyber security

The BBC reports that full details of the funding are still being agreed between the Department of Health and NHS England, but reportedly £1 billion will be spend on cyber security and data consent. Another £400 million will be spent on building a new website, provide free wi-fi and develop apps.

Securing patient details will be a vital component of building a trusted digital public health system. Recent research from Veracode has shown that the healthcare industry has a poor track record in terms of creating secure code – with 69% of apps tested failing to meet basic security standards, and only 43% of identified flaws being fixed.

Healthcare apps were also found to have a particularly high prevalence of cryptographic flaws which is rather worrying given that encryption is one of the key technologies needed to protect sensitive data.

“These proposals for a more connected, app-enabled NHS will certainly offer patients and health professionals more efficient digital services which are long overdue. But whilst patients will benefit from mobile access to records, data and online bookings, the sharp rise in healthcare apps could cause headaches for the government. That’s why it’s vital that all applications which access confidential data are fully tested and protected from vulnerabilities which could be an easy target for cyber criminals wishing to damage the NHS or profit from the wealth of sensitive data it holds,” said John Smith, principal solution architect at Veracode.

NHS plan must be underpinned with a dedicated cyber strategy

“The journey towards digitised records and services brings with it challenges around cyber security, privacy and protection of patient data. That’s why it’s vital that the digital NHS plan is underpinned with a dedicated cyber strategy that can enable secure transformation that protects data from outsider threats. This approach will mean doctors, nurses and patients can enjoy world class digital health services and operate with genuine confidence in the increasingly connected online world,” Gordon Morrison, Director of Government Relations at Intel Security said.


Edited from sources by Cecilia Rehn.

Sources: UK Government     BBC