Headlines: February 19th, 1999

Health Secretary Frank Dobson has tried to reverse the emerging tend for seeing new technology principally as a drain on NHS resources.He told a conference in York: “New technology is sometimes portrayed as a threat to the future of the Health Service – but that’s either by pessimists, economists or right wing commentators who have always said our country can’t afford the NHS. In fact, new technology promises a better Health Service.”

He said there was about to be a revolution in equipment and devices used in the treatment and care of patients. This would be backed by an information revolution, which could transform the way the NHS was organised and services delivered.

He also said the only real choice facing the Government was to allow technology to develop piecemeal, without medical or social priorities, or encouraged and guided so that it covered the country: “The present NHS patient record system is archaic. Clinicians are often left hanging about for the ‘notes’ and when they get them the ‘notes’ may well be inaccurate and out of date. We are committed to providing an electronic patient record.

“Then there is the development of telemedicine – at the moment it’s mainly the transmission of data, or test results or images, x-ray or MRI or ultra sound scans. This is in many ways possibly the biggest breakthrough of all. Up to now medical treatment has always required somebody to travel.”