Health secretary Jeremy Hunt backs digital single patient record

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has backed a single patient record but said that it needs to be created at GP surgery level first.

Jeremy Hunt: ‘We need to have a single digital record that can follow you anywhere in the system.'
Jeremy Hunt: ‘We need to have a single digital record that can follow you anywhere in the system.'

Speaking at a Kings Fund event in London on Wednesday, Mr Hunt said that he has only set himself four priorities in his health brief, which includes IT, as the role is only likely to last two years.

The shelf life of a health secretary is usually short, he said. ‘I hope in two years' time I will be able to look at me and you will be able to say to me, actually I will give some credit where credit is due,’ he said.

A single patient record would have a big impact on care and free up clinicians’ time, he said. ‘The aims of what Labour wanted for Connecting for Health were good,’ he said.

‘We need to have a single digital record that can follow you anywhere in the system. The way that they (Labour) chose to deliver it was wrong. I am determined that we don’t find ourselves so seared by the money that was wasted on that project and give up. I think if we do it in a bottom-up way, starting at a GP’s surgery, thinking how we can start connecting those records to local hospitals and gradually spreading throughout the system that way, we can get to what we need which I think will have a big impact on care.’

When asked by a delegate how he would manage to reduce the bureaucratic burden in the NHS which every health secretary before him has promised, Mr Hunt said: ‘I am very conscious that there are people like you, people in the NHS who have given their lives to the NHS and that are likely to be involved in the NHS much longer than I am.’

He said in the next two years a lot of the effort will be spent on making sure that information is widely available to the public in the way that it isn’t at the moment.

Peer pressure he said would be key to driving up standards across hospitals. ‘Because of their professional pride and the desire that everyone has to do well against their peers I don’t think I will have to do anything at all to get those institutions to think about how to improve the quality of care that they offer,’ he said.

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