COMMENT: Cyber charts will be a real tonic

TODAY’S news that county NHS hospitals are taking a major step towards a paperless, computer-driven NHS is long overdue.

Hospitals like Oxford’s John Radcliffe are set to get tablet devices to share information about patients’ vital signs.

These will share information between doctors and nurses who are often far apart in the vast John Radcliffe.

And the programme – developed with Oxford University – will also calculate when a patient is at risk of deteriorating.

Advances in technology have dramatically improved the efficiency of many organisations and has long been needed for the NHS.

The ability to share information quickly and clearly is vital for the complex network of contacts in our health service.

Labour went for broke when it unveiled an ambitious programme to connect all the NHS in 2002. The National Programme for IT was a tragedy of delays and poor performance by software that led to it being abandoned in 2011.

Though some component parts were kept, taxpayers had forked out at least £9.8bn when it was axed. Legal costs to terminate one firm’s contract alone cost £31.5m.

It’s therefore good news that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust’s scheme has been developed “in house” with the university.

This is exactly the kind of on-the-ground benefits the former Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust said would be brought to the county when it agreed a formal link with the university in 2011.

We hope it has learned the lessons of the problems that beset the national programme and subsequent scandals about lost personal data from Government departments. And hopefully other parts of the NHS will be inspired to make greater use of cyber space.

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