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NHS needs to catch up on technology

Lack of leadership blamed

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The NHS is failing to make effective use of simple technology now commonly used by its patients, such as the internet and email.

Other industries like financial services and travel have been much quicker to adopt new technology, according to thinktank the King's Fund.

Allowing patients to talk to doctors via email, use of video conferencing and extending NHS websites would be good ways to start.

Vendors are not keen to sell into the NHS because the procurement process is so convoluted - this limits communication between technology companies and the NHS. There is a lack of leadership at the national level and a lack of technology standards, the thinktank found.

The NHS has spent the last six years entwined in the National Programme for IT which aims to create electronic patient care records and allow doctors to book hospital appointments for their patients. The project has been stymied by the usual problems with delays, overspending and disappearing contractors - Accenture and Fujitsu have both quit.

What seemed like an innovative idea in 2002 has already proven rather dated and limited - God knows what it will look like when finally rolled out in 2014 or 2015. The project is expected to cost at least £12.7bn.

The report calls for better leadership from the Department of Health to encourage innovation and technology use. The NHS should meet patient demand for more modern ways to communicate with its staff, and should work with the technology industry to improve procurement processes.

Finally the Kings Fund recommends that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - NICE - should extend its remit beyond drugs guidance to other new technologies and innovations.

You can download a pdf of the full report from here. ®

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