College calls on Health Secretary to make NHS a world leader in tech by getting the basics right first

A robust and joined-up IT system across the NHS needs to be prioritised before a technological ‘revolution’ in patient care can truly happen, the Royal College of GPs has said in its new ‘tech manifesto’ released this week.

It is estimated that up to 80% of GP practices could soon be using outdated IT systems that are not suitable for the demands of future care – with some practices still reliant on old fashioned fax machines that Health and Social Care Secretary for England Matt Hancock has said he wants to outlaw.

The manifesto recognises the exciting potential of genomics, AI, digital medicine and robotics to potentially revolutionise patient care and improve patient safety.

But the College says that widespread improvement will only be possible once robust, secure IT systems are in place for all GP practices and all areas of the NHS have access to computer networks which seamlessly link up the patient journey.

It wants all GP practices to have:

  • modern, digitally-enabled premises with fully interoperable IT systems
  • access to secure high-speed broadband facilities; and 
  • access to a single shared electronic patient record which documents patient interactions throughout the NHS.

The UK currently lags behind its European neighbours, such as Finland and Estonia, that have already implemented a shared electronic patient record in their health systems.

The RCGP manifesto explores how innovation can benefit GPs and patients by helping to reduce the ever-escalating workload of family doctors across the UK, and demonstrates how GPs are ready to embrace the changes needed to be at the forefront of innovation.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs have always embraced new technology. General practice was the first NHS sector to have electronic prescribing and electronic patient records so we know how beneficial new technology can be and we recognise its huge potential to help our patients.”

“GPs want the latest, cutting-edge tech at our disposal but we need the basics to work first. That means everything from making sure that our computers don’t crash while issuing a prescription, to making sure our systems talk to those in all hospitals so that we can improve the care and experience that our patients receive throughout the NHS.”

“We want the NHS to be a world leader in technology, and we are ready for a new wave of exciting opportunities which have the potential to revolutionise patient care, but a lot of work is needed before that can happen, and we need to ensure sure that these opportunities are embraced safely and sustainably with GPs at the centre of changes.”