Andrew Lansley plans online NHS consultations to save £250m a year

Andrew Lansley, secretary of state for health, said the government must bring the NHS into the digital age and open the market to more suppliers.

Andrew Lansley, secretary of state for health, said the government must bring the NHS into the digital age and open the market to more suppliers.

Speaking at the Health Informatics Congress 2011 conference he said: "This is what the information revolution is about - capturing the data and using the imagination and the creativity of clinicians, NHS staff and everyone here today to make the very best use of this incredible resource."

He added: "We want an online presence for the NHS ranking among the best in the world for content and relevance. And we want to nurture and sustain vibrant information ecology, taking in clinical audits and quality metrics, enabling clinicians to benchmark and improve the outcomes they secure."

The comments come as Andrew Lansley agreed on Monday to put his NHS reforms on hold amid anxieties surrounding the policy. The Health and Social Care Bill, currently going through Parliament, is the largest piece of health legislation since the NHS was created.

Lansley added that the government would break away from complicated, billion pound contracts and open up contracts to more suppliers. "We do want to open the IT market up to any provider, large or small, who can help deliver better care for NHS patients."

"The UK has experienced an explosion in internet usage in recent years. The majority of businesses, homes and now individual people are connected in some way.

"But we are still at the beginning of this new industrial revolution and, like revolutions past, we need the basic infrastructure to be in place if we are to reap the rewards," he said.

It is unnecessary for 80% of patient interactions with the NHS to be face-to-face. Moving just 1% of those face-to-face meetings online would save the Health Service around £250 million a year, said Lansley.

"Increased use of technology will mean millions of people in years to come will be able to stay in their own home and avoid unnecessary hospital visits or being forced into residential care," he added.

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