Jeremy Hunt will announce today the opening of the new NHS 111 online service. The nhs.uk website will allow patients to book appointments and put their symptoms in online to receive medical advice.
This is the latest advance in the drive to make the NHS a paperless service and reduce costs and make better use of technology. The website will also allow the public to compare local areas against each other for dementia, diabetes and learning disability services. Information on maternity, cancer and mental health will follow. £4bn has been set aside for this increased drive to better use online technology.
Back in 2013 Jeremy Hunt promised that the NHS would be a paperless service by 2018; the first step at the time to achieving this goal was providing patients with online access to their own records. However, it is unlikely that this will be put into practice with data protection issues probably providing too large a hurdle to overcome for this step to be implemented.
The wider ambition in Hunt’s plans with the launch of this online service is to drive patients away from unnecessary trips to hospitals and other health services and help the NHS run more effectively. If this service can provide some respite from the pressurised daily operations of the NHS it will be welcomed. There is however only so much support an online service can offer and the reassurance a medical professional can provide in person cannot be replicated through a website.