Headlines: November 9th, 2001

Callers to the health advice service, NHS direct, in the Birmingham area, can now see the nurse who is listening to the problem and giving advice. NHS Direct In Vision is the first service of its kind in the world and it is being tested by media group Telewest. Seeing the nurse on screen is not only reassuring, but it also means that photographs or video clip, for example, can be shown to callers to identify a particular rash. The interactive digital TV used in the test also allows users to shop, bank, play games and send email. If the pilot proves successful, it could be made available across the UK.Digital TV is one of a number of ways the NHS is using the latest information and communication technology to give the public fast and easy access to health care. A wide ranging initiative is in place to revolutionise the way health professionals communicate with the public. Electronic systems will start to replace paper over the next five years. This means that by logging on to a computer, medical records will be available to both patients and doctors. Test results, repeat prescriptions and appointments will be organised via email, saving time and worry by cutting days off the time it currently takes to handle these communications. Systems will also be developed so that patients can be treated by health specialists who are in a different location, giving the public access to more services than ever before.