The Government's proposals for reform and investment for the NHS, announced last week, contained £250m earmarked for IT.
The NHS Plan also set a new deadline for getting all GPs onto the health service intranet, NHSnet, by 2002.
The plan included targets for patient access to their medical records electronically. By 2004, 75% of hospitals and 50% of primary and community trusts are expected to have implemented electronic patient records, as detailed in the 1998 paper Information for Health.
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When the infrastructure is in place the Government plans to implement smartcards for patients to use to access the records.
Electronic prescribing of medicines, including repeat prescriptions, is targeted for 2004, and the Government wants a telemedicine service running by 2005 to allow patients to contact NHS staff electronically for advice.