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Norfolk's health IT systems most 'digitally immature' in the UK

PUBLISHED: 17:28 25 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:31 26 October 2019

NHS IT systems in Norfolk are the most digitally immature in the UK, a health chief has warned. Photo: Archant

NHS IT systems in Norfolk are the most digitally immature in the UK, a health chief has warned. Photo: Archant

Archant

NHS IT systems in Norfolk are the "most digitally" immature in the UK, a health chief has warned.

The county's health IT systems lack the ability to share patient records between providers, with patients in the "frustrating" position of having to recite their symptoms multiple times.

And a plan for the county's health system over the next five years - launched in line with the government's 10-year plan for the future of the NHS in England - will aim to update and improve its systems, including the creation of single digital patient records.

Speaking at a meeting of the Great Yarmouth and Waveney joint health scrutiny committee, on Friday, October 25, Jocelyn Pike, director of special projects for the Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership said Norfolk's systems were the "least mature digitally in the country".

And she told councillors one of the priorities for the five-year plan would be an "ambitious" re-imagining of communications.

She said: "You can have a fantastic system but if it won't talk to another one you're going to have a problem - and we've got systems not talking to each other.

"We have to make the most of technology that comes our way.

"We have to strive to do this - otherwise we might as well pack up and go home. There are opportunities for capital funding, so it's about being ambitious, then we'll be at the front of the queue."

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And speaking after the meeting, Ms Pike added: "Through the plan we're got a number of areas we're looking to take forward, including single digital patient records.

"All health organisations across Norfolk would be looking at the same patient record. That would be a massive improvement for the patient not to have to repeat themselves multiple times."

And she said other priorities would include apps - and training for elderly users - to monitor falls.

Stephen Burroughes, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said the plans were an "ambitious wishlist" and added: "It's about how you're going to deliver this."

A spokesperson for Healthwatch Norfolk said: "We are encouraged to see digital transformation being listed as a priority, but we still know many people are concerned that Norfolk as a whole has not reached the level of digital maturity required to meet the needs of our complex patient population.

"There are a myriad of ways technology could, and should, be implemented in our health and social care system. However, without such practices being embraced on a county-wide level there is risk of Norfolk falling behind."

And they added: "We are particularly concerned that the lethargic implementation of digital infrastructure in our county's hospitals is making life difficult for the hard-working staff that are responsible for delivering care.

"For the benefit of patients, it is vital that these services receive adequate support to ensure that modern digital practices are adopted quickly and effectively.

"It is imperative that digital innovation remains a top priority in our county's health and social care system and as a local Healthwatch we are here to support this engagement process as much as is possible."

Norfolk's five-year plan is expected to be made public by the end of the year.

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