Minister for Health at The Scottish Office, Sam Galbraith, has allocated £45 million of funding to the National Health Service (NHS) in order to develop a system by 2002 which will give general practitioners (GPs) the power to book hospital appointments instantly. The initiative forms part of an overall project to provide all GP surgeries with modern communications equipment, as to offer direct links to hospital laboratories and radiology departments to enable quicker receipt of test results. Developments are underway to automatically implement facilities for copying discharge letters, referral letters and booking of hospital tests directly from the GP's personal computer into the Electronic Patient Information System.
The Electronic Patient Information System will ensure that health care professionals have access to accurate data about their patients quickly and securely. In a next phase, the public equally will obtain access to health information on self care as well as general treatment advice for complaints and diseases. The NHS actively promotes a greater sense of responsibility for the patient towards his own health condition by means of online medical information and prevention. By the end of 1998, 1070 general practitioners and 370 hospitals will be connected to the system, as stated by the Autmatisering Gids.
Earlier on, the project to link every GP office to the Scottish NHS intranet via high speed networking has been successfully completed. In this way, the GP's, who already dispose of the same GP software package, are constantly provided with up to date medical information. The Scottish health care enjoys a relatively independent position and cherishes ambitious plans to bring hospital waiting lists down permanently. An additional government funding of £1.8 billion will be spent over the next three years to modernize the NHS and to keep up the downward pressure on waiting lists as well.
Through the implementation of telemedicine, the NHS even wants to set up homecare services for patients. Currently, obstetricians and pregnant women are testing a device, which is able to send scans over a telephone line to the responsible specialist. Still, some critics warn against a bureaucratic approach by the NHS which will prevent the Scottish health care services to deploy the necessary flexibility to apply the new Information Communication Technologies (ICT) for efficient patient care. Some of the earlier announced Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) projects never hit the mark. Yet, Minister Galbraith is convinced that the recently taken measures will reach the initial goal. More information is to be found on the Web site of the Scottish government.