The NHS must focus on updating practice IT systems before planning for a technological revolution, GP leaders say today.
Up to 80% of practices could soon be using out of date IT systems while some still use fax machines, the Royal College of GPs said.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is due to visit its HQ today for the launch of a “tech manifesto.”
But GP leaders will tell him his hopes of introducing widely accessible AI, genomics and robotics depend on the NHS getting the basics right.
According to the college, practices need modern, digitally-enabled premises with fully inter-operable IT systems.
This includes access to high-speed board and to single, shared electronic patient records.
College chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “General practice was the first NHS sector to have electronic prescribing and electronic patient records so we know how beneficial new technology can be and we recognise its huge potential to help our patients.
“GPs want the latest, cutting-edge tech at our disposal but we need the basics to work first. That means everything from making sure that our computers don’t crash while issuing a prescription, to making sure our systems talk to those in all hospitals so that we can improve the care and experience that our patients receive throughout the NHS.
“We want the NHS to be a world leader in technology, and we are ready for a new wave of exciting opportunities which have the potential to revolutionise patient care, but a lot of work is needed before that can happen.
The plans gained backing from the British Medical Association. The BMA said recent surveys of its members found that 25% felt that the IT systems at their place of work were not fit for purpose – while 50% felt that the IT infrastructure increased their workload.
Dr Farah Jameel, who leads on IT for the BMA GP committee, said: “As part of this year’s GP contract deal, GPC negotiated important digital commitments, ensuring improvements to the current GP IT estate and fully-resourced IT infrastructure that is both fit for purpose and for the future, aligning with national ambitions towards digital-first primary care.
“Only when systems can seamlessly communicate, be these in GP practices, hospitals or other settings, can we have a truly interoperable NHS and fully embrace a collaborative way of working to improve the lives of both staff and their patients.”