Headlines: December 4th, 2001

Some 10,000 households across Hull and East Yorkshire with access to digital TV can now access a local NHS Direct Digital service which provides some 20,000 pages of first aid and healthy living information, pictures and video-on-demand. The information will allow them to build TV programmes, and devise quizzes. Viewers can also get details of local GP surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals and local blood donation sessions.The Department of Health has commissioned four interactive digital television pilots. Last month an NHS Direct service was launched for digital TV viewers in the Birmingham area to allow them to see the nurse listening to their problem and giving advice – see Publicnet Briefing 9 November. The Hull service is provided by the Kingston Group which has served business and residential customers in the area since 1904. The content is provided by Communicopia – the UK’s fourth largest interactive TV agency.

The four pilot NHS Direct Digital services will be independently evaluated so that the NHS can learn lessons about using this new technology for the benefit of the public and patients.

The National electronic Library for Health, launched in October 2000 has been enhanced with a search engine, a new database and an information shop. The database provides a list of over 2,000 care pathways in use in over 200 NHS organisations. A unrecognized benefit from developing the database was the discovery of much duplication across the health service. The database revealed 50 local pathways for knee replacement. Work is now in hand to cut down the duplication of effort and improve collaborative links.

The Wanless report ‘Securing Our Future Health: Taking a Long Term View’, commissioned by the Treasury, found that the UK health service has a poor record on the use of information and communication technology. The health service spends much less than other areas of government on technology, and the leading private sector, banking, spends nine times more per employee.