Government sets aside £260m for paperless prescribing

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Hospital prescribing errors could be reduced by making the information paperless.

The NHS is taking a step closer to achieving its ambitions to go paperless by setting aside a fund to allow paperless prescribing.

It is thought that £260 million has been earmarked for e-prescribing, which is aimed at using technology to prevent medicines being incorrectly handed out to patients in hospitals.

Last year, 11 people died after being given incorrect prescriptions in hospitals, but the Department of Health estimates that using technology to share data can reduce such errors by up to 50 per cent.

The move could help to speed up the switch from paperless patient records to electronic versions of the information, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt keen to make the entire NHS completely paperless in just five years’ time.

New electronic systems, links to related patient records and methods of communicating between hospitals will be brought in using the money, with e-prescriptions carrying a barcode unique to each person to reduce the likelihood of mistakes.

"In many places right now, a paramedic picking up a frail elderly woman who has had a fall will not always know she has dementia, because he or she cannot access her notes," pointed out Mr Hunt, adding that better use of technology should allow this to change.

The news comes after it was revealed that Furness General Hospital is to start electronically sharing its paperwork with care providers in the community in order to improve treatment for patients, the Westmorland Gazette reported.

It is hoped that once people are discharged from hospital, they can enjoy a seamless transition back to their ordinary lives compared to the way things happen at present.

Other hospitals in the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust will also join in after an initial trial.

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