The NHS trust which claimed to be the first to become paperless a year ago is now helping GP practices to do the same.
St Helens and Knowsley teaching hospitals NHS trust in the north-west is offering family doctors in England what it claims to be the first service of its kind to digitise, store and give GPs immediate desktop access to their Lloyd George paper patient records.
So far the Electronic Lloyd George Records Service (e-LGS) has been contracted by the trust's three local clinical commissioning groups in Halton, Knowsley and St Helens to rid its 85 GP practices of their 500,000 patient paper records. But the trust says it has the capacity to offer e-LGS to any practice in the country.
Dr David Wilson is one of the first GPs to use the e-LGS system which he says is transforming administration and saving money at his Grove House practice in Runcorn where he is senior partner. Digitising all its 11,000 Lloyd George records is, he estimates, reducing admin costs by the equivalent of about one person a day each week. The practice is as paperless as it is possible to be in the current NHS system where trusts still send some paper correspondence. "We are paper light plus because we still receive paper from trusts although we immediately scan the paper into the system," Wilson said. "We are as advanced as GPs can be."
Practice staff in the past would often spend up to two or three hours manually searching the paper records for specific past referral letters, test results or details of a GP's written account of a previous consultation. With the new system they can remotely access a digital database that contains all the material previously held in the Lloyd George by clicking an icon on a computer screen and logging on to a secure site. The move to e-LGS has also freed up more than 20 sq metres of space in the practice as it no longer needed its Lloyd George library.
Wilson said: "The Lloyd George is the only part of my patient record that still remains on paper and has been a huge burden to maintain administratively. I absolutely love the new system."
The e-LGS system was created by St Helens and Knowsley health informatics service at the trust, which developed its own paperless patient records system a year ago. The trust's IT experts created a similar electronic system for GPs that allows them to access a digital database of the practices' paper records, which have previously been scanned and stored. All the paper records held in the Lloyd George are destroyed – only the covering brown envelope is retained by the practice in case a patient registers with a new GP and a paper copy of their original record needs to be created.
Neil Darvill, director of informatics at the health informatics service said: "I don't think that any other organisation is offering this end-to-end service although some commercial companies will offer archiving and scanning of paper records and provide practices a backup with a DVD. Where we are different is that we take the paper records away, scan them and then provide online access with no data stored in the practice."
Signing up to e-LGS for five years costs a practice £3 for each Lloyd George record, or 60p a record a year. There is a 10% discount for individual clinical commissioning groups. Any profit made is ploughed back into the trust's health informatics service.
The national launch of e-LGS comes three months after Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, set the NHS a challenge to become paperless by 2018. All NHS trusts are already expected to have their patient records online by 2014.