NHS Trust goes paperless

Hospital IT

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals has become the first NHS Trust to go paperless when it comes to patient medical records.

The Merseyside organisation has spent 1.2 million implementing the system which uses C Cube Solutions electronic document management software, alongside Kodak document scanners. However, the Trust claims this could lead to savings of 1.4 million annually on operational costs.

After a number of data losses committed by the NHS, along with the Information Commissioner's Office claiming the public sector organisation was responsible for a third of all data breaches in the UK, security concerns are paramount.

Speaking to IT PRO, the Trust's director of informatics, Neil Darvill, admitted the NHS could be "bloody useless" when it came to this area but "not if you know how to do it properly."

"We implement everything you would anticipate, we take data security incredibly seriously and we don't have any security breaches or data leaks," he said.

"The system is managed behind our network with all of the security you would expect so it has safe access, password control, smartcard access, is fully firewall protected and we have third party penetration tests. All that stuff is done routinely, so we kind of tick all the boxes in terms of security."

Despite the calculated risks, there are many key benefits to the system. As well as being highly available at the click of a button night and day, the records can also be view in multiple locations at the same time something that can really hold up processes in hospitals.

"[Doctors] can look at them from any point of access from in the hospital, from in the GP practice, from a secure remote access at home," said Darvill.

"The real benefit is you can actually be much more flexible as a clinician in terms of how you operate. You can actually sit down, log on and just do what you need to do."

The NHS is renowned for its opposition to change, but Darvill claimed doctors, nurses and admin staff have been receptive to the new system. Over the two year implementation, the Trust took a lot of feedback from users into account and used it to improve the system.

So will other NHS organisations follow?

"We have had over 30 NHS Trusts visit us to look at what we were doing and to witness our project so there must be an element of synergy there," said Darvill. "I also know the supplier who worked with us to develop this system has actually resold it several times as well."

"I am actually sure that this is the way [the NHS] needs to go and some [Trusts] are. We will keep plugging away and see if we can make the NHS a better place."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.