Information is mission critical to NHS
A new report from BCS (the Chartered Institute for IT) calls on the NHS to radically improve its use of information and to give patients what they want. It argues that a shift from paper to electronic data systems is vital to cope with the demographic time bomb which threatens to swamp healthcare services worldwide, and the enable the best use of medical advances. The BCS also calls for interoperability between NHS information systems.

Research for the report suggests that patients are strongly in favour of modernised systems. They want to see information and technology used in ways which make life easier – for example apps which let them book appointments or order repeat prescriptions.

New commissioning board starts work
The NHS Commissioning Board starts work at the end of October, shortly after its new chairman described the Health and Social Care Bill as ‘unintelligible’. The NHS Confederation has welcomed the new body and issued detailed advice on how commissioning can be dramatically improved.

The confederation warns of potential bear traps, including being seen as unaccountable to patients and overbearing to professionals. It also emphasises that Clinical Commissioning Groups need to be enthused and offered guidance, rather than stifled by heaps of mandatory rules.

Meanwhile Pulse says that the appointment of the government’s favoured candidate, Professor Malcolm Grant, only just achieved the number of votes required to secure the post. Last week the professor admitted the health bill was ‘unintelligible’, but claimed that it offered a chance for the NHS to have stability away from political meddling.

Value of care records service questioned
Research published in the BMJ questions the value of the NHS Care Records Service in England’s early adopter hospitals. The two-and-a-half year study of a dozen acute hospitals and specialist care settings found the projects resulted in less clinical functionality than originally planned. It also identified problems due to delays, unrealistic expectations, build time, training and support.

The paper recommends increased local decision-making on records systems and says it is vital that policymakers do not lose sight of the overall goal of an integrated interoperable solution.

Drug error cuts could save 16,000 lives
A Birmingham hospital doctor has devised an electronic system which could save 16,000 NHS patient lives a year by ensuring patients receive their prescribed drugs. The Telegraph reports that Dr David Rosser, executive medical director at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), new monitoring system has resulted in a 17% drop in emergency patient deaths. He criticised the emergence of a worldwide culture where drugs omissions and prescribing errors were an accepted part of hospital life.

US physicians take stand on patient privacy in research
The American College of Physicians (ACP) wants patients to be better informed about their data can be used. It is proposing a rule under which researchers would maximize appropriate use, for scientific advances, without compromising privacy. Healthcare IT NEWS says the 132,000 strong organisation wants a more transparent system of informed consent so patients know exactly who can access their data. The ACP is worried that patients may withhold information unless they feel confident that they can receive healthcare without the risk that their private information will be inappropriately disclosed

Eight trusts in PACS partnership
Eight south-west of England trusts have partnered to procure new PACs and RIS contracts, reports EHI. All are currently running picture, archiving and communication systems from GE Healthcare under contracts, bought through the National Programme for IT, which end in 2013. The tender lodged in the Official Journal of the European Union by Plymouth Hospitals, is expected to be worth up to £30m and will last five years.

Growing social media use by US doctors
A survey of 4,000 US doctors show that the use of social media for professional purposes is growing. Some 28% are members of online communities, which they use for education and information, while 17% use LinkedIn. The results, reported in Healthcare Informatics, show that social media is an important channel of communication between doctors. Some 34% have text-messaged other physicians about patients, while 12% have texted patients directly; 15% have had private online discussions with other physicians about patients. The research does, though, reveal that worries about issues such as privacy can hamper greater use of social media.

King’s Fund reports on health service performance
Performance is holding up despite significant pressures in some areas, according to the latest King’s Fund quarterly monitoring report. Average waiting times remain within target range, but one in four hospitals failed to treat at least 90% of patients within 18 weeks of referral in August. With the financial squeeze beginning to bite, the report also highlights continuing concern among FDs about whether ambitious productivity targets can be met.

News in Brief
PCTs must manage records effectively: The DH has issued instructions to primary care trusts (PCTs), and others due to be abolished in the reorganisation of NHS commissioning, on the care and transfer of patient records. The task could place considerable demands on organisations which are already losing staff.

Orion and Microsoft link ups: New Zealand’s Orion Health is to buy Microsoft’s Amalga information system and RIS/PACS assets to address needs of Asia Pacific hospital market. In a parallel agreement EHI says the companies will collaborate to provide health information exchange solutions to the global eHealth market.

£30m taxi ride: A BBC Freedom of Information request reveals that over £30m has gone on taxis for NHS patients since 2008 because of a shortage of official non-emergency transport. Fares included a 184-mile journey from Cambridgeshire to Bristol costing over £700.

Drastic limits on hospital referrals: GP practices in Redbridge clinical commissioning group (CCG), in London, are being told to limit referrals to four a week amid pressure to reduce hospital use. Pulse uncovered a series of controversial restrictions on referrals by CCGs just days after a warning that some are implementing ‘untried and unacceptable measures to micromanage practices’.

Limiting bias in randomised trials: Flaws in the design, conduct, analysis, and reporting of randomised trials can cause the effect of an intervention to be misjudged. Research in the BMJ examines tools for assessing risk of bias.

Health in the blogosphere
On a recent trip to Israel Anne Cooper, National Clinical Lead for Nursing, in the Department of Health Informatics Directorate, was hugely impressed by the role that nurses are taking in using modern IT to improve patient care. She tells Nursing Times readers about her ‘lightbulb moment’.

‘What I saw was good leadership in informatics that was making a real difference in freeing-up teams so that they could be more creative, think differently and work with patients to try new ways of working across a whole organisation. Isn’t it time we stepped up too?’

Is lots of patient information always a good thing? Jobbing Doctor thinks not, and it seems that many of his readers agree.

‘One of the more irritating features of 21st century medicine is the proliferation in length and detail of patient information leaflets that are given whenever a patient is prescribed anything … I get the feeling that many of these are produced by the firm’s legal department with the express notion of preventing them from being sued.’

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