Headlines: December 19th, 1997

Plans have been announced for building an NHS Net which will bring the same sort of benefits to patients as information technology has brought to bank customers and airline passenger. NHS Net will be an information superhighway linking hospitals, GPs and other health care organisations. It will cost £150m.By the end of 1999 a patient’s test results could be available to a GP as soon as they are ready rather than spending a day or more in the post. Administrative procedures will be speeded up and made more efficient. This will mean that hospital appointments will be booked quicker and more easily. GPs will also be able to share information, disseminate good practice and spread new ideas.

The service will be extended by 2002 and GPs will have the latest specialist advice on medical and drug treatments. They will be able to tap straight into the findings and guidance of the new National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Other possibilities for developing NHS Net include connecting GPs with pharmacies to speed up the prescribing and dispensing of medicines in primary care. There are also opportunities for developing telemedicine in primary care centres.

A number of private companies have shown interest in developing electronic links for the NHS. The possibilities of taking this development forward in partnership with the private sector is being explored.