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How data can make a difference

A paramedic working on a computer in the front seat of an ambulance

The health tech revolution is coming.

Imagine a world where compatible, integrated, cutting edge technologies allow paramedics to access full patient records on route to emergency calls.

Imagine them arriving knowing as much as they can and time saved in diagnosis, initial treatment and onward transport to hospital because services and systems have communicated and responded in real time.

Our technology vision sets out these and other challenges as we work together to liberate our health and care services from slow, outdated and incompatible systems.

Why? Because I truly believe cutting edge technologies will improve patient safety, reduce delays and speed up timely diagnoses and treatment.

In other words - lives will be saved and our ambulance service will be a vital litmus test of this endeavour.

Faster patient care

Paramedics usually respond to emergency calls with no prior knowledge of an individual’s condition or medical history. Access to patient information including medication, allergies, medical history, care and crisis plans can make a critical difference and enable better, faster and safer patient care.

As a start, a Summary Care Record (SCR) containing medical histories provided by GPs should be easily accessible.

But access to SCRs is not as uniform as it should be.

Just a small proportion of crews have access. This surely cannot be right when the data is there to be accessed!

We know that paramedics need to be able to access information from multiple sources within the health and care system. Thankfully, there are many forward-thinking NHS trusts across England working hard to close the information gap.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, work is underway to help Yorkshire Ambulance Services access patient information in transit and at the point of handover to Accident and Emergency (A&E) services. To do this, information is being recorded electronically by paramedics for immediate use by hospital staff on arrival at A&E.

Heaven forbid I ever have an accident in Yorkshire, but if I did, this work gives me incredible peace of mind.

Three ambulances in a hospital forecourt

In the age of Google, Wikipedia and other online resources allowing us access to information at the click of a mouse, this innovation is long overdue – but I'm so glad it’s here now. This approach - and others like it - must become commonplace throughout our health and care system.

NHS England is working closely with all the ambulance trusts to work out why the use of SCRs is so low, when improving mobile access and helping services provide timely access to their data, can turn this around for the benefit of patients and crews.

At the same time, we are working with local services on a crucial initiative called the Local Health and Care Records Exemplar. This work involves finding better ways to transfer information between health and care services to make care handovers an easier and better-informed process.

I want all paramedics to have easy access to this potentially lifesaving and life changing information.

I want the focus and ambition of my technology vision to empower our country’s best innovators - inside and outside the NHS. To do this, I want to hear from staff, experts and suppliers on how best to embrace and deploy new technologies in service to the highest standards of care.

Only by channelling our collective enthusiasm, experience and expertise can we deliver the most advanced health and care system in the world.

Get in touch and tell us what you think. You can share your views on our tech vision by completing our Future of Healthcare questionnaire.

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  1. Comment by Paul Grant posted on

    This is a brilliant vision. The key things as you have mentioned are access to data and interoperability of systems. The suppliers of the GP principal IT systems do not easily allow access to patient data, governance and approval mechanisms are slow. The NHS Digital process for pairing integration is painfully slow.
    If you were designing a modern system from scratch it would not be like this!

  2. Comment by Huw Llewelyn posted on

    A modern patient care coordinating system could be designed from scratch to be updated by everyone seeing a patient (see my response to Ben Goldacre and my experimental web-site: This would be an opportunity for a fresh start. This independent ‘patient’s system’ could then be used to access other ‘specialist’ data bases for patient care and research.


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