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Government IT plans to see all GP patient records accessed via the cloud

All patient records should be moved onto public cloud services, the Department of Health and Social Care has said in new guidance.

The DHSC’s new IT ‘vision’ has called for multiple changes to the use of technology in healthcare, including that all services will run in the public cloud, with ‘no more locally managed servers’.

A DHSC spokesperson confirmed to Pulse that this is the ambition for ‘all critical data’, including patient information, so that it can be accessed anywhere in the country and by multiple healthcare professionals.

A spokesperson said: ‘That’s a future ambition and one that isn’t going to be sorted straight away. But obviously we’re working to see how we can do that and if it’s possible.’

The document said the NHS should be using the ‘very best’ technology, such as artificial intelligence to help with diagnosis, or robotics and voice assistants. However, it said the basics need to be overhauled first in order to ‘reach this potential’.

These basics include putting in place infrastructure so patients do not have to repeat their medical history for different GPs, pharmacies or social care providers.

The document said: ‘Technology systems used daily across hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes, pharmacies and community care facilities don’t talk to each other, fail frequently and do not follow modern cyber security practices. As a result, some people are getting suboptimal care, staff are frustrated and money could be saved and released for the front line.’

However, Sam Smith, coordinator at medConfidential, which works to improve uses of data and technology in the NHS, said: ‘This is yet another political piece saying what ‘good looks like’, but none of the success criteria are about patients getting better care from the NHS.

‘For that, better technology has to be delivered on a ward, and in a GP surgery, and the many other places that the NHS and social care touch.’

This comes after Mr Hancock described hospital trusts’ inability to access GP records as ‘downright dangerous’ last month.

The DHSC said it was currently consulting on the document as a whole and will publish an update in December, which will include more information on time frames for the changes.