The government will this month commit the NHS to a “paperless” future, according to the Commissioning Board’s informatics chief.

The board’s director of patient and public engagement, insight and informatics Tim Kelsey told the Healthcare Efficiency through Technology Expo that the first ever government mandate issued to the NHS Commissioning Board would “contain a commitment for a paperless NHS” and a resulting switch to digital communications.

It is not clear if the commitment will have a deadline, but Mr Kelsey said “I am pushing for the end of 2015 to be the moment that we eradicate paper from the NHS.”

He added that was an “ambitious” target but it would lead to a “much better, safer experience” for patients. He said: “That’s no more referral letters, no more lost records because we won’t have paper in the health service.”

Some members of the audience at the conference were sceptical.  One delegate told the conference there was still a place for paper records and a hybrid model would work best. When asked how realistic he thought a 2015 target was, Mr Kelsey replied: “we will see what the mandate says in terms of requirements but I think with hard work and commitment we can get somewhere meaningful.”  

Last month, Mr Kelsey told HSJ how he wanted the Commissioning Board to drive greater digital engagement with the public and patients. He set out plans for a contact portal which would enable people to book appointments and order prescriptions online. The portal will bring together NHS Choices, NHS Direct and NHS 111.