Chancellor promises electronic patient records for all NHS trusts by March 2026

In the spring 2024 Budget, the government said it will spend £3.4bn on boosting productivity in the NHS, including £2bn on updating IT systems.
hospital staff member looking at computer

The government will spend £2bn on an update to “fragmented and outdated IT systems across the NHS” that will include ensuring all NHS trusts have electronic patient records by March 2026.

The Department of Health and Social Care previously said in June 2022 that all NHS trusts would have electronic health records by March 2025.

The funding, which was announced by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the 2024 spring Budget — the final Budget of the current government — forms part of a wider plan to spend £3.4bn on boosting productivity across the NHS.

Published on 6 March 2024, the Budget document said that the NHS productivity plan will “double investment in NHS technological and digital transformation, including to upgrade vital MRI scanners, roll out universal electronic patient records and reduce the time frontline workers spend on administrative tasks”.

“This will help unlock £35bn in cumulative productivity savings from 2025/2026 to 2029/2030,” the Budget document said.

It added that the £2bn allocation for updating IT systems will ensure that “all NHS trusts have Electronic Patient Records by March 2026, ending reliance on outdated physical paper records across the system”.

The government’s plan to roll out electronic patient records across all trusts has been a long-standing commitment.

In 2013, Hunt, who was then health secretary, challenged the NHS to “go paperless” by 2018. Then, in October 2014, NHS England’s ‘Five-year forward view’ promised to make all patients’ records “largely paperless” by 2020.

This was later revised in the ‘NHS long-term plan‘, published in January 2019, which said that all providers “will be expected to advance to a core level of digitisation by 2024”, including electronic patient records.

In November 2023, NHS England announced that electronic patient records are now being used in 90% of hospital trusts, meeting a target that the government set out in ‘A plan for digital health and social care‘, which was published by the Department of Health and Social Care in June 2022.

The plan stated that 90% of trusts should be using electronic health records by December 2023 and all hospital trusts in England should be using them by March 2025.

Responding to Hunt’s statement, Tase Oputu, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “Alongside a welcome focus on universal electronic patient records and transfers of care, the proposed ‘NHS productivity plan’ must accelerate the adoption of electronic prescribing in hospitals.

“The rollout of Pharmacy First has also shown just how important it is for pharmacists to be able to update a clinical record wherever they work and it is vital this is achieved as soon as possible.”

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England, said: “While the NHS productivity plan may theoretically add some efficiencies across primary care, it remains to be seen if this will bring any real benefit to pharmacies: the devil will be in the detail, and this will not provide the silver bullet that pharmacies so desperately need.”

The chancellor also announced that a new duty would be introduced on vaping liquids from October 2026, which he said would raise £445m by 2028/2029.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2024, Vol 312, No 7983;312(7983)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.280206

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