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The end of paper! Welcome to the NHS Paperless Roadmap

It is almost unthinkable isn’t it? No paper in the NHS. No assessment forms, no procurement orders, no monthly spreadsheets. How so? The NHS paperless roadmap.

We all agree with the ambition. But I wonder whether when push comes to shove we will all be as willing to hand over the one piece of paper or one form that makes our working lives easier…

The NHS has said that every health economy must now produce a roadmap by April 2016 setting out clearly how they will be paperless by 2020.

As Computer Weekly explained: “These plans will focus local NHS leaders on the task of modernising services and allow CCGs to be held to account for meeting agreed milestones”. And a new digital maturity index will be introduced, and monitored by the CQC, to assess how far down the track Trusts and CCGs are.

This is the key. To be honest, the NHS paperless roadmap is not the challenge: the NHS is good at theoretical plans. We have produced them on a huge variety of subjects over the years.

What happens once we have a carefully considered, stakeholder agreed, concise plan? What do you do if the assessment concludes that your organisation or health economy has low maturity? Then the hard work starts.

In a time of scarce resources and, if we are frank, limited project management capability and skill, Trusts will have to come up detailed and resourced projects to deliver a paperless environment. Information technology will need to be reviewed and probably overhauled; systems will need to be defined, redefined or even scrapped; staff will need to be re trained. In fact the cultural shift is dramatic. There are significant risks, and not an obvious list of easily available mitigations.

Is it worth it? Yes. Will it be easy? No. Will most health economies have the skills and people to do this – almost certainly not. And that is where specialists and, whisper the word, consultants, can help.

So as you think about your paperless plan, our advice is simple: don’t underestimate the problem, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Oh, and make sure your roadmap is not produced on paper….

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