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Discharge summaries must be electronic from October 2016, says NHS England

All discharge summaries for patients transferring from hospitals in England to the care of their GP must be completed electronically from October 2016. In the image, a hospital receptionist talks on the phone

Source: RayArt Graphics / Alamy

Government reforms aim to remove paper-based systems used within the NHS at the point of care by 2020

All discharge summaries for patients transferring from hospitals in England to the care of their GP must be completed electronically from October 2016, as part of new digital standards being introduced by the government.

The move, part of government reforms to make the NHS paper-free at the point of care by 2020, is expected to reduce the risk of errors, including those involving medicines, after patients are sent home from hospital.

The government also wants more hospital trusts to move to electronic prescribing. So far, only 14% of trusts use an electronic system which, according to NHS England, has the potential to halve medication errors.

And from November 2015 every clinical commissioning group (CCG) will be expected to carry out a digital services “self-assessment” to find out how well they are meeting government targets to adopt new technology.

Details about the latest steps the government is taking to create a paperless NHS are due to be revealed in a speech by NHS England’s director for patients and information and chair of the National Information Board Tim Kelsey on 3 September 2015.

Ahead of his speech to the NHS Innovation Expo conference in Manchester, Kelsey said: “We need to consign to the dustbin of history the industry in referral letters, the outdated use of fax machines and the trolleys groaning with patient notes.

“As well as saving precious resources, technology can dramatically reduce errors. Urgent action is a moral imperative where paper is the currency of clinical practice.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069261

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  • All discharge summaries for patients transferring from hospitals in England to the care of their GP must be completed electronically from October 2016. In the image, a hospital receptionist talks on the phone

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