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The NHS IT modernisation programme has already benefited one-and-a-half million patients, the Department of Health has claimed.

Health minister Liam Byrne said developments to date as a result of Connecting for Health represented 'encouraging progress towards full integration of health and social care systems in England by 2010'.

In a Commons written answer, he said nearly 3,500 GPs were now registered users of the data 'spine' on which NHS care records will be stored, and 5,500 practices had broadband access.

'We are currently seeing a considerable acceleration in the deployment of technology across the NHS,' he said.

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