An NHS mandate – the first ever – has committed the National Health Service to put all medical records online by March 2015. The mandate also extends to booking GP appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions.
In a 28-page document, the NHS Commissioning Board, which will assume full statutory duties and responsibilities on 1 April 2013, has stated that, "clear plans will be in place to enable the secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held, so there is as complete a record as possible of the care someone receives".
They will also be able to "follow the patient", with their consent, through the public care system. At the moment, transferring people's health records is a cumbersome, manual process.
From 2017, it is also expected to have made "significant progress" towards enabling three million people with long-term health conditions to receive tele-consultations by 2017.
However, Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, warned that achieving the targets laid down in the mandate would be "challenging".
The NHS Commissioning Board was established in October as a new quango – despite the government's "bonfire of quangos" just two years ago – to take over NHS planning and delivery responsibilities from the Department of Health.