The NHS could save more than £4 billion by making better use of technology, the Health Secretary said today (16 January 2013).
By putting all patient records on a digital system, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hopes that care professionals will "easily" be able to share information.
He said: "It is crazy that ambulance drivers cannot access a full medical history of someone they are picking up in an emergency - and that GPs and hospitals still struggle to share digital records.
"Lessons need to be learned" from previous attempts, and "only with world class information systems will the NHS deliver world class care," the Health Secretary said.
Hunt's announcement came as a report on the potential benefit of technology in the NHS was published.
The National Mobile Health Worker report found that introducing laptops more than doubled the amount of time clinicians could spend with patients.
By April 2018 Hunt wants paperless referrals to be adopted so that GPs will be able to send an email when referring a patient to hospitals.
He also suggested that care providers set plans in place so that a patient's records can be accessed by any part of the NHS or social care system.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: "We know that patients may be wary of breaches of patient confidentiality, so it is important that the proposed changes are introduced with care and caution.
"High quality patient care and nursing practice have always relied on the effective management of information. We also know that nurses can use health IT systems for effective communication, outcome monitoring and to further drive improvements in patient care."
The NHS Mandate has set out a clear expectation that patients in England should be able to book GP appointments, view test results and order repeat prescriptions over the internet digitally and securely by 2015.
Jeremy Hunt told The Guardian: "If banks can develop systems where people are confident about their money, it must be possible for the NHS to develop systems where people are confident about their privacy."