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Peter Mann

Digital Strategy Lead, Xerox

NHS England financial reports for 2021–22 highlight that £234 million is spent every year simply storing paper medical records, highlighting a financial burden of antiquated systems.


Current healthcare systems are productivity killers for clinicians, making it increasingly time-consuming for patients and putting greater strain on healthcare staff trying to find the information they need. The Department of Health and Social Care finds that only 20% of NHS organisations are digitally mature. 

Patients, not paperwork 

Health customers have taught us that the motivation that healthcare systems should strive for is ‘patients, not paperwork.’ Transitioning from paper to a digital service saves significant sums of money, saves space, lowers carbon emissions and redeploys staff closer to the front line of care. 

An example is the NHS’s virtual ward which allows patients to get the care they need, safely, from their homes — while receiving the same experience they typically would in a hospital setting, without having to physically be there. Currently, virtual wards are run via an app which the NHS hopes will reduce pressure on staff and make 25,000 beds available by the end of next year as a direct result. 

As well as clinical use cases, digitisation of medical records has proven to help with day-to-day operational needs such as automating subject access requests, supporting risk stratification, providing data for long-term clinical research programmes and supporting the move to create an intelligent summary of care record.  

Staff retention is a major problem in the NHS due to an increasingly high rate of burnout.

Improve working culture  

Staff retention is a major problem in the NHS due to an increasingly high rate of burnout and a lack of work-life balance. Analysis of NHS Digital figures found that at least 400 staff a week in England are leaving to improve their work-life balance.  

The cost of not addressing retention issues currently stands at £21.7 billion, according to the latest NHS Staff Retention Review. Digitisation should enable some healthcare organisations to support flexible working by removing that physical bond of work being a place where paper medical records are stored.  

Make the switch to digital 

There is more to be done, but healthcare organisations are taking steps in the right direction. Notably, the NHS is setting the ambition for the majority of health and social care services to have digital foundations in place, such as electronic records, by March 2025. 

The switch requires proactive change programmes within the healthcare industry. This change will engage staff across the healthcare sector, streamline services, reduce costs and ultimately provide better quality care for patients.  

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