NHS to go paperless by 2020. No, really, it will, says gros fromage

Dead tree goalposts are noiselessly, virtually moved once again

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, photo: Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation

Once again the NHS has unveiled grand plans to become paperless, with NHS England's national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey this time naming 2020 as the momentous date.

In order to cut the scourge of paper, which costs trusts up to £1m each in storage per year, Kelsey wants to introduce patient barcodes.

By April 2016, clinical commissioning groups must submit delivery plans for how they will eradicate the use of paper in the treatment of patients across all health and care services in their region by 2020, he said at the NHS Innovation Expo Conference in Manchester.

"The NHS needs to get over the idea that we've had too many false starts and we can't do technology. While bringing our own systems into the digital age, we must do more to help the public and clinicians take advantage of the game-changing opportunities on offer to improve outcomes for patients," said Kelsey.

Eagle-eyed readers may feel this all sounds familiar. That's because in January 2013, the then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS should go paperless by 2018, saving £4.4bn.

"The NHS cannot be the last man standing as the rest of the economy embraces the technology revolution," he said at the time.

However, we're sure this time the NHS will meet its goal of 2020 – particularly if the success of Kelsey's much-delayed and hated Care.data scheme is anything to go by. ®

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