HC Deb 25 June 2002 vol 387 cc848-9W
Mr. Connarty

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the benefits of access to broadband services for improving patient care; and if he will make a statement; [61801]

(2) what targets he has set for the roll out of broadband services in (a) GP surgeries and (b) hospitals; and if he will make a statement. [61802]

Ms Blears

As set out in the NHS Plan, the national health service in England will have the most up-to-date information technology systems to deliver services faster and more conveniently for patients, including:

  • electronic booking of appointments for patient treatment;
  • access to electronic personal medical records for patients;
  • electronic patient record systems in hospitals and primary and community trusts;
  • electronic prescribing of medicines giving patients faster and safer prescribing as well as easier access to repeat prescriptions;
  • facilities for telemedicine allowing patients to connect with staff electronically for advice.

To deliver these services will require the provision of a robust and high capacity networking information technology (IT) infrastructure with sufficient capacity and broadband connectivity. We are taking action by introducing a new national programme and implementation plan for IT in the NHS which will significantly step up the pace of getting modern IT in place to support front line patient care and ensure that IT both drives change and gets the best from the extra resources the NHS is now getting.

There are no specific targets for the roll out of broadband services to general practitioner (GP) surgeries and hospitals in England. However, a significant number of NHS organisations are already using broadband links to NHSnet, the NHS managed networking service.

At least 30 per cent. of NHS trust sites currently have broadband connections where broadband is defined as transmission capacity of 256,000 bps or higher. GP practices in England are being encouraged to take up broadband services. Former health authorities were each invited to nominate two practices for centrally funded broadband connections. To date funding has been made available to 40 practices.