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Thursday, 08 September 2016

Webwatch: One-stop NHS website to book appointments and get advice

Written by The Press Association

A new one-stop NHS website where patients book appointments, order prescriptions and access medical advice is being developed, health officials have announced.

For minor ailments patients will be able to check their symptoms online and they will be able to read up on all manner of diseases.

The new website will also enable patients in England to register with a GP and download their secure medical records.

Patients will also be able to compare how well their local health service performs against others for key areas including cancer, dementia, diabetes, mental health, learning disabilities and maternity care.

Information on how well each local trust performs on dementia, diabetes and learning disability services will be published through the MyNHS website immediately, with more information added in the autumn. This data will be taken into the site at a later date.

The system, which is hoped to be ready by the end of next year, will offer a new online triage system for the NHS's 111 service. Patients will be able to enter symptoms online and get tailored advice or a call-back from a health care professional, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.

The triage system is being developed with patients and clinicians and will be trialled before it is available for the general public to use.

The move, which is to be announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the NHS Expo event in Manchester, aims to give the smartphone generation easier access to NHS services.

"We live in the age of the smartphone, and we want the NHS to reflect that," Mr Hunt said.

"Our new plans will make it easier for patients to get medical support and information they need, and should encourage more of us to use the growing range of online NHS services available.

"This is a way of supplementing patients seeing their doctor in a more conventional, face-to-face setting, and crucially it will give people more choice and the opportunity to access healthcare in a way that works for them."

The announcement comes as a review into IT in the NHS is published.

Professor Robert Wachter was commissioned by the Department of Health to look in to the English health and care system's approach to the further implementation of IT in healthcare.

He made a series of recommendations to help the NHS, including highlighting "exemplar" NHS trusts that are leading the way in the technology revolution.

Prof Wachter said: "The NHS is a gem - delivering excellent outcomes at costs well below other international systems such as those in the US. However, for it to continue to provide a high quality and accessible service for staff and patients it simply must digitise.

"The one thing that the NHS cannot afford to do is to remain a largely non-digital system - it is time to get on with IT."

Responding to the review, Mr Hunt said he will make 12 trusts global exemplars, which will help other organisations learn from their experience.

He also outlined plans to introduce a new academy dedicated to training NHS staff in digital skills.

In the past former health leaders were heavily criticised over a failed multi-billion pound IT system.

Ministers shelved an ambitious scheme, designed to create electronic patient records for use across the NHS in England, in 2011.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England's national director for operations and information, said: "Smart technology is set to transform the way patients can access NHS services and manage their own health.

"We are already seeing the benefits to patients and NHS staff as we harness this potential, and we are investing hundreds of millions to bring NHS technology into the 21st century.

"Digital innovations will make our services more efficient, save money and help the NHS to deliver its ambitious programme of change."

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