The key objective of the National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT) in the national health service in England is to support, over time, the delivery of integrated health and social care by enabling appropriate access to records and improved storage, sharing and management of core data.
NPfIT is responsible for introducing the NHS Care Record Service (NHS CRS), which will firstly lead to the NHS having an integrated electronic record management service. The NHS CRS will provide each patient with a single comprehensive set of electronic medical and care notes.
Local practices and hospitals will continue to hold detailed local records, but additionally a summary health record will be created containing essential data such as allergies, current treatments or medication.
From the outset some elements of social care information will be included and, provided that the necessary security and networking requirements are met, some social care professionals will have access to the NHS CRS. Full implementation of a unified health record that includes all appropriate social care information is planned for completion during phase 3 of the NPfIT in 2008–10.
We have redefined the scope of the electronic transmission of prescriptions (ETP) programme in order to support the wider pharmacy agenda. This potentially offers greater benefit. For example, in terms of patient safety, there will be better information at the points of prescribing and dispensing. It will enable us to make better use of pharmacists' skills and use them to provide patient centred healthcare services that are integral to the NHS.
The ETP programme will enable the commitments made in "Delivering 21st Century IT" be taken forward and will provide support for the broader pharmacy agenda outlined in "Pharmacy in the Future" and "A Vision for Pharmacy in the New NHS".
The programme will also help to build capacity at the Prescription Pricing Authority, thereby enabling the projected increase in prescription volumes to be addressed. It will also potentially reduce the unit cost of administering prescriptions.
Key elements of the electronic transmission of prescriptions system have been procured as part of the recently concluded NHS CRS procurements. Work is now focusing on how community pharmacies can be connected to the system, and how their pharmacy computer systems can be upgraded to comply with the requisite technical specification. It is intended that deployment of the live system will commence from January 2005.