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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
X-rays to be stored on computer
X-rays will be available at the touch of a button
Every hospital in England is to get new X-ray technology designed to speed up diagnosis and treatment.

Health Minister John Hutton announced on Monday that from the summer doctors will be able to look at X-rays electronically rather than on film.

Digital images, such as X-rays and scans, will be stored on computer - enabling them to be sent by email.

This will end the need to physically transfer X-rays or scans by hand from hospital department to another.

The digital image will follow the patient wherever they go
John Hutton
Instead, health workers across the NHS will be able to access the information at the touch of a button.

The system, called PACS - Picture Archiving and Communications Systems - is part of the government's 6bn NHS IT programme.

This will also eventually see patient records being stored electronically and all GPs making hospital appointments for their patients from computers in their surgeries.

PACS technology will begin to be rolled out from this summer through five Local Service Providers (LSPs). National coverage will be completed in three years.

Rural benefit

People in rural areas will especially benefit because PACS will be put into Minor Injuries Units and other diagnostic locations, saving many journeys to hospital.

John Hutton said: "The new system will help doctors do what they do best - treating patients - and will provide NHS users with a first class, 21st century service.

"The digital image will follow the patient wherever they go and will be able to be recalled whenever and wherever they need to be accessed by a patient's healthcare professional.

"Hospitals will no longer have to pay for film, doctors will be able to diagnose treatment quicker and patients will receive a faster, better service."

Professor Aidan Halligan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and joint Director General of the National Programme for IT, said: "Today's announcement has wide-ranging clinical and patient benefits.

"In addition to patients not having to wait whilst their X-rays are processed and delivered by hand from one department to another, clinicians will no longer have to hold X-rays up to a light box in A and E to make a diagnosis.

"There will be improved staff and patient safety due to reductions in radiation dosages from X-rays and avoiding the use of hazardous chemicals for film processing."

The BBC's Luisa Baldini
"It improves diagnosis and cuts down on waiting time"

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