Hospitals face “very serious repercussions” if they do not have electronic patient records systems in place by 2014-15, the NHS Commissioning Board’s national director for patients and information warned last night.

Tim Kelsey told a Cambridge Health Network event that the target for all hospitals to have electronic patient records (EPR)systems in place was “by far the most important single practical thing” needed if the government’s ambitious digital ambitions were to be realised.

“We are not going to tell you what record system, that’s down to you, but we will specify a requirement that we will need and if you can’t meet that then there will be some very serious repercussions,” he said.

“As a result, some of our oldest, most distinguished hospitals have a significant challenge to get to that point.”

The warning follows planning guidance issued by the board in December requiring all trusts to have EPR systems in place by 2014-15 – a target many inside the NHS and industry say is unrealistic.  

At the same event, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans for an “interoperability pilot” – another potentially crucial stage on the path to his ambition of a paperless NHS by 2018.   

He said Mr Kelsey had promised him that “one region in England will have a fully portable electronic record across the entire secondary, primary and social care system before the next general election”.  

“That will be a tremendous thing to achieve,” he added.  

Meanwhile, Mr Kelsey said the Commissioning Board would in March begin the soft launch of a new system allowing patients to comment on services by phone or text, with those comments posted on a public forum.

The system, for which he originally floated plans last year, is based on the 311 service used in some US states.   

“Every day 90,000 New Yorkers complain their garbage has not been collected [or] the streets are looking dirty,” he added. “This has totally transformed the way services are commissioned.

“Calls go into the call centre and they are immediately put up as a flag on a map [which service commissioners and all residents can see].

“In March we are launching the facility in the NHS. From November it will go fully live.  My hope is we will be able to encourage hundreds of thousands of people to ring and tell us how it is going for them at that moment.”