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An information strategy for the NHS

The new information strategy for the NHS has been launched by Frank Dobson. A new Information Authority will replace the present Information Management Group (IMG). The IMG has often come in for criticism; the health service's introduction of information technology has been described as unstructured and inconsistent. Over the next seven years, £1 billion will be added to current levels of investment to fund the further introduction of new technology. The increased use of electronic systems is, however, expected to result in cost savings. Mr Dobson said, 'Information technology has a central role in the government's ambition to renew and modernise the NHS and for the first time it will be geared towards helping doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to treat patients, rather than churning out figures to support the internal market'. He said many current central information requirements would be scrapped, describing them as 'a useless burden on frontline NHS staff'. New initiatives will include the development of a drug directory, a national electronic library for health, the connection of every GP practice to the 'NHSNet', and the appointment of IT specialists at primary care level. Booking outpatient appointments will be easier and prescriptions will be ready more quickly. Confidentiality is seen as a key issue. BMA Chairman Dr Ian Bogle said he welcomed the shift in strategy from management and finance to patient care.

BT has launched a new website and quarterly magazine containing the latest news about how information and communications technology is being used to improve healthcare and efficiency within the NHS. It is aimed specifically at NHS professionals. There is also an expanding library of 'best practice' healthcare IT studies and links to other expert healthcare IT companies websites. The website can be found at www.bthealth.com

Source:BMJ 3 October; Press release (BT)

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